Alabama High School Athletics Association executive director Steve Savarese was once again behind the podium Thursday afternoon to give an update on the governing body's latest decision to keep high school sports season on schedule with less than a month to go before the first contests.
Although the season is set to begin on time, Savarese wanted to make it clear there will be many changes as schools attempt to abide by state guidelines.
“Everyone should understand sports season will not be normal," Savarese said. "We cannot think in normal terms... It is essential that everyone do their part to mitigate the risk of the virus."
More than once Savarese called on schools, athletes and fans to do everything they can to abide by the guidelines in hopes of a full season for fall, winter and spring sports teams. Assistant director Denise Ainsworth went through the latest release one step at a time, hitting on all fall sports and what changes need to be made to have a season this year.
Football season is expected to look much different this season with several big changes around the field. Prior to the game, teams are allowed to send only one captain to the middle of the field for the coin toss.
The sideline will be extended for the players as the player box will be extended 30 extra yards, spanning from one 10-yard line to the other. The coaches' box will still be 50 yards long, from the 25-yard line to the 25-yard line.
Charged timeouts and intermission between periods will be extended from one minute to two minutes, allowing more time to keep players and coaches at a distance and helping the team provide individual water bottles to each player.
Volleyball matches will also look different this fall. There will be less people allowed at the scorer's table and meetings before the match will no longer include captains but rather just one coach from each team with the officials at center court.
Opponents will also no longer switch benches during the match, a practice that has not been enforced by the AHSAA for several years according to Ainsworth.
In cross country, the AHSAA is asking all courses to be widened to at least six feet when feasible. They also ask that fans in attendance wear masks while on the sideline.
For swimming and diving competitions, the AHSAA is requiring athletes to arrive already in swimming attire to avoid changing in locker rooms that do not allow enough space for social distancing.
The AHSAA said all of these decisions were made based off current information provided by the CDC and the ADPH.
“This is not a final document," Ainsworth said. "This is a fluid document that will be updated constantly. We have done a lot of research to prepare for this.”
While some of the AHSAA's latest release lays out exact plans for how schools can handle certain sports, much of the new document was listed as suggestions while allowing school districts to make their own decisions on limiting exposure to the virus.
Ainsworth said schools will be in charge of communicating all of its own guidelines to fans, media members and visiting teams prior to any competition. Local school systems will also be allowed to decide what, if any, restrictions will be placed on crowd size at sporting events but Savarese said he believes restrictions will be in place.
Transportation options for athletes and coaches will also be left up to local school board. The AHSAA is encouraging schools to require social distancing, masks and even assigned seating on buses while traveling to events.
The AHSAA also stated it will be the host schools' responsibility to provide a clean environment in locker rooms for visiting teams. Ainsworth also suggested other ways to avoid the close quarters of a locker room with the visiting team traveling already dressed, limiting numbers on the traveling roster and wearing masks while inside.
In the gameday and event management section, the AHSAA states all gameday personnel should be screened before any competition.