Fall Sports are a GO! MHSA releases guidelines for activities amid pandemic


HELENA – The Montana High School Sports Association (MHSA) has given the go ahead to play ball this fall, but within a set of guidelines that will look very different to most Montanans.

In general, the MHSA guidelines are directed at game participants with fans left to the jurisdiction of the governor and local health officials. Granite County Board of Health Chairman Mark Ransford was forwarded the MHSA’s release Monday morning and is currently reviewing the information as to how it will affect fall sports in Granite County. His guidance will help shape what the spectator experience is like starting in August.

Locally there are just three sports that area athletes participate in – Volleyball, Football and Cross Country. The MHSA issued guidelines for each of those sports as well as Soccer, Golf and Spirit/Cheerleaders.

In general, the pre-game meetings between players, coaches and officials will look very different than in years past.

Coaches and athletic directors will have to scramble to fill the void of the traditional Tip-Off Tournament, which are now banned by the MHSA during the pandemic. That change was verified by MHSA official Kip Ryan and outlined in the organization’s document “Return to MHSA Fall Activities”.

Volleyball may have the biggest changes ahead of it, starting with its pre-match rituals. Gone are the hand slaps between opposing players, with both teams standing on opposite end line as they are introduced, socially distanced for safety.

But some of the biggest changes in volleyball will happen during the game. Bench players must sit in a socially distanced fashion, meaning that the front row in the Drummond gymnasium is likely off limits to spectators as it will be needed to space players and coaches out.

The coin flip is gone, with the home team now serving first automatically.

Teams will also no longer switch benches between sets. This means that in games two and four of a five-game match, coaches will have to instruct their players from the opposite side of the net.

And the ‘air high five’ may be the new norm as team celebrations must not include touching.

Masks are optional for players during the contest.

Coaches and athletic directors will have to scramble to fill the void of the traditional Tip-Off Tournament, which are now banned by the MHSA during the pandemic. That change was verified by MHSA official Kip Ryan and outlined in the organization’s document “Return to MHSA Fall Activities”.

Football and Cross Country will look fairly familiar with the obvious social distancing having an impact on the sidelines. The Player Boxes will be extended to the 10-yard-line and balls must be washed/sanitized as often as possible throughout the contest.

The MHSA has also cancelled the All State Band, Choir and Orchestra Festival scheduled for October 14-16 and stated it will not be rescheduled during the 2020-2021 school year.

The MHSA has created a tiered return to activities, attempting to anticipate what sports may look like going forward in the event of the pandemic getting better or worse. The current set procedures are Tier 1.












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