WEST LEBANON — The potential for a fall high school sports season in New Hampshire received a boost on Thursday when the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association set Sept. 8 as the first day for practices.
In a phone interview, NHIAA executive director Jeffrey Collins said the NHIAA Council — which approved the date at a Thursday morning meeting — wanted to give member schools a target for fall sports as they continue to deliberate reopening plans. It doesn’t guarantee a fall competition season, given the constant flux caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as schools will ultimately make the call on which sports they will allow to be played.
“There are four dates we have to set: first date to practice, first date to play, last date to schedule and last date to play,” Collins said. “We decided to push off the first date to practice by about three weeks to allow schools the opportunity to continue conversations about their return-to-learn (plans) without worrying about returning to school sports in that time frame.”
New Hampshire fall sports traditionally begin workouts in mid-August. Thursday’s news follows the Vermont Principals Association’s choice this week of Sept. 8 for the start of fall workouts, coinciding with Gov. Phil Scott’s executive order mandating the opening of schools statewide on that date.
Collins called Thursday’s NHIAA vote the latest step in a gradual return to action. It came with a revised three-phase return plan first released in May and updated each of the past two months to reflect reopening guidelines for amateur and youth sports set by the state.
The NHIAA permits high school sports teams to have summer workout programs, and many Upper Valley squads are engaged in them right now. It prohibits them from being in “competitions, games, tournaments/jamborees in the summer,” the guidelines noted.
Collins said the council ran out of time to set the other three fall sports dates, something he expects to be completed when it meets again next Thursday. That would open the door to creating game schedules.
Once the last date to play is confirmed, the NHIAA can then plan for postseason tournaments. Collins said open tournaments are a possibility, if things progress to that point.
“There’s so much uncertainty going on in what sports will be offered; we want to be respectful of schools and the tough decisions they have to make,” Collins said. “We’re trying to be as flexible as we possibly can.”
The NHIAA fall sports lineup includes football, soccer, field hockey, girls volleyball, golf, spirit and bass fishing.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.
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