By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Administrators, athletic directors, players and especially coaches kept an eye on the TSSAA meeting held Wednesday afternoon to find out any news on the future of fall sports.
Here in Millington, longtime Trojan Football Head Coach Chris Michael received the results from the gathering of the TSSAA board and is still confused the following day.
“It’s very frustrating, but you understand,” Michael said. “All we’ve been doing is working out following the mandates from our governor, the local health departments and all the regulations that have come down. All we’ve done are workouts in small gatherings, agility drills. Basically we’ve been doing conditioning stuff.”
In years past, this week would mark the annual Trojan Football Camp held at the Millington First Baptist Church. Instead, Millington Football has modified preseason plans to following changing regulations because of the global pandemic.
Wednesday, TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress stated the contingency plans that were voted on during the meeting “worst-case scenarios.” Prior to the meeting, TSSAA outlined four options sent to all who would be effected.
TSSAA voted for the second option for a football contingency plan, with a hybrid plan deviation; this if Gov. Lee’s executive order remains in place.
Option 2 includes:
Teams would play an eight-game regular season.
TSSAA would scrap each teams current schedule and set region schedules for all member schools.
One week of the postseason would be cut out and feature a 16-team postseason bracket.
Only region champs and region runner-ups would qualify for the playoffs.
For teams that do not make the postseason, there would be the option to play two additional games to play a 10-game schedule.
Michael noted helmets and shoulder pads are now included in practice and drills but still zero contact. “Simulation stuff” is acceptable without contact. Michael said his linemen will work against large garbage cans until further notice.
Coaches are just teaching and instructing players at the moment without the use of a football. Michael said after the news came down from TSSAA, his approach will remain the same to obey regulations and keep his players safe.
The veteran coach did express concerns of some programs trying to gain an advantage and disobeying some of the regulations. But Michael said his direct concern is following the mandates from governing bodies and keeping his student/athletes healthy.
“We’re doing everything we’re allowed to do to the letter of the law,” he said. “Which is not a whole lot right now. But the main priority is keeping the kids safe.”
In other news from the meeting, girls soccer regular season to start Sept. 7. TSSAA votes to allow the girls soccer regular season to begin Sept. 7 if Tennessee’s Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order still runs through Aug. 10.
During the meeting, TSSAA declared that if a health department safer-at-home order would shut down sports.
If a team has an outbreak of COVID-19:
The opposing team who could play will receive a win
The team who could not play (as a result of a positive COVID-19 test) will not record a win nor a loss
If this happens during playoffs/postseason play, that team would be eliminated
TSSAA passes 12 fall sports regulations
These regulations are effective immediately and will remain in place all season long even if/after Gov. Lee lifts his executive order.
Regulation 1: Temperature checks will be required for all players, coaches and team personnel prior to the start of practice, every single day.
If the temperature is 100.4 or greater, they must be sent home.
They cannot return until they provide documentation that says they’ve tested negative for COVID-19 or they have a physician that says COVID-19 is not the cause of their fever.
Regulation 2: No coach, player, or team personnel may participate in a practice or contest until completing a COVID-19 screening. Must be asked weekly.
Regulation 3: No scrimmages, jamborees, 7-on-7 practices, or any other types of practices with other teams are permitted.
Regulation 4: At a contest, coaches, players, team personnel, officials, administrators or fans must have temperatures checked before entering the facilities.
If it is 100.4 or greater they will not be permitted.
Regulation 5: Symptom checklist must be posted prominently at all contests similar to the screening of players and coaches will partake in.
Regulation 6: At a contest where fans are permitted, member schools are encouraged to limit fan attendance to a number that would allow for adequate physical and social distancing.
Regulation 7: Member schools will require that fans must wear masks/face masks while on site.
Regulation 8: Temperature checks and screenings shall apply to member bands, cheerleaders, and student groups at the contests.
Regulation 9: If a public address service is used during a contest, the school will use the service to remind those in attendance to wear masks and social distance.
Regulation 10: Frequent cleaning/sanitization is encouraged.
Regulation 11: Concessions are discouraged.
Regulation 12: All coaches must complete the NFHS online COVID-19 course for coaches prior to start/resume of coaching.
Something to note: While the TSSAA is not mandating a specific number of fans permitted in the stands, they are encouraging stadiums to operate at 1/3 or 1/4 capacity while also marking off specific seats for fans to sit in.
TSSAA board of directors votes to allow schools who have opted for virtual-only classes as a result of COVID-19 to participate in athletics.
By Thomas Sellers Jr.