August 20, 2020
The high school sports season in New Jersey will look and feel very differently when it gets underway next month.
Athletic schedules will be condensed. Games only will take place locally. Out-of-state competition is prohibited. Postseason competitions will be kept local, meaning there will be no statewide championships.
Those changes – outlined in a "Return to Play Plan" released Thursday by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association's Sports Advisory Task Force – are designed to allow sports to resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Practices and competitions for fall sports will begin about a month later than usual.
All practices are delayed until Sept. 14. Girls tennis can begin competitions Sept. 28. Cross country, field hockey and soccer can start playing games Oct. 1. Football games can kick off Oct. 2.
Girls volleyball and gymnastics – both indoor sports – have been postponed until the spring season. Practices for those sports can begin Feb. 16, with competitions commencing March 3.
If the public health crisis worsens, the fall sports season also could be pushed back until the spring.
Winter sports can begin practices Dec. 3 and competitions can get underway on Dec. 21, but those start dates are subject to change based upon guidance from the state. Dates for the spring sports season will be announced at a later date.
The NJSIAA said that the goals of its return-to-play protocols are to ensure health and safety and promote participation in sports.
"Our kids need structured activity, and we believe that education-based high school sports is the best way to provide it," Chief Operating Officer Colleen Maguire said. "Giving teenagers extra motivation to stay COVID-free promotes healthy outcomes for everyone."
Earlier this week, Gov. Phil Murphy approved the resumption of outdoor high school sports if health and safety guidelines are met.
Student-athletes participating in remote or in-person learning will be able to take part in high school fall sports, Murphy said.
State officials previously approved summer youth sports to resume through a multi-step process.
Non-contact organized youth sports, such as golf and tennis, were permitted to resume in June as long as they followed social distancing measures.
Medium and high-risk sports were initially restricted to modified, no-contact workouts. Programs and leagues had to ensure that participants could remain at least six feet apart. Traditional practices and games resumed for medium-risk sports, like baseball, basketball, softball and soccer, in July.
High-risk sports, such as football and wrestling, resumed workouts and competitions late last month. Indoor sports remained prohibited.