Unpacking the NMAA Postponement of Contact Sports

Photo by Jaren Brooks

The recent announcement to postpone contact sports this fall has left athletes, coaches, parents, fans in disarray. Not only is this a significant feat to consider the fact that no football or soccer will be competed in this fall but also to where that may leave the rest of the sports (cross country in particular). Although not a contact sport by definition, everyone aware of the sport knows that the narrowing of the starting lines and the tightly packed finish lines sees some shoving, collisions, and a few exchanges of elbows.

The sport itself is considered ideal when you think of the makeup of a cross country meet. Runners competing outdoors, across a three-mile course with athletes more often than not to be stretched out throughout the course, no exchanging of equipment to be made and spectator-friendly during these COVID-19 times. 

There is another side to a postponement of contact sports while allowing sports like cross country to compete this fall. Could it be possible that those student-athletes missing out on their sports opt for cross country in the meantime? There would be an influx of student-athletes that may be uncertain whether they get a football/soccer season but still want to stay competitive that go out for a sport like cross country which they never would have prior. Perhaps premature and a slightly wild theory but could cross country become they "in" sport this fall, garnering the admiration of the high school sports sphere. All it takes is an unlikely chance of circumstances to attract a new base of competitors and their fan base to the niche that is this sport of miles, terrain, and resilience. 

Photo by Jaren Brooks

So can it be done?

I believe if determining factors allow for a season it can be altered to ensure New Mexico student-athletes see competition. Some requirements that can be made to better accommodate a cross country season:

  • Limiting the number of runners/ teams in every race
  • Maximizing the number of races to limit the number of teams per race
  • Requiring masks outside of competition for athletes (downtime, while in team tents,)
  • Masks not required during warm-ups, cooldowns, and during competition. 
  • Masks required for spectators, coaches and meet staff at ALL TIMES
  • Requiring 6ft distance for spectators during races
  • Creating a bubble space around the starting line and finish line for spectators to avoid crowding

Implementing these policies is conceivable considering just how much our society has adapted to the current pandemic. The athletes and coaches are willing to make any adjustments necessary to ensure they have a season, it comes down to parents, family members, and friends to the effectiveness of ensuring a safe environment for the cross country community. At the moment, nothing is certain as to when the competition will resume in the state of New Mexico. We do know that the NMAA is examining the situation on a week by week basis and the plan is to see all sports to have some sort of season in the 2020-2021 academic year even if those seasons need to be shortened. Of course, the determining factor will come down to whether there will be an academic school year in session this fall entirely. Stay positive New Mexico, do your part to minimalize the spread and stay focused on achieving your goals, cross country will return!