Summer practices and workouts have started in many states – the first activity since high school sports and performing arts were halted in March due to the national health pandemic. Some schools have had to suspend workouts for periods of time as health protocols are followed, but there is excitement about the potential return of high school sports and other activity programs.
Although our country continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and many other troubling issues, there remains a hope that in some form or fashion the 12 million participants in high school activity programs will have an opportunity to compete. And in back-to-back announcements this week, the NFHS provided more encouragement for the upcoming high school sports and activities season.
Two of the most successful endeavors in the 101-year history of the NFHS – the NFHS Learning Center and the NFHS Network – unveiled new opportunities for schools, coaches, administrators, parents and other fans. And both of these opportunities come at the best possible price – free!
The NFHS Learning Center (www.NFHSLearn.com) is offering a free online course to help coaches and administrators as high school sports and performing arts restart this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 for Coaches and Administrators” is a must-take course for high school leaders as it includes vital information from the NFHS’ “Guidance for Opening Up High School Athletics and Activities” document released in May.
Thanks to the work of the NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, this course was produced to demonstrate how to limit the spread of the virus – through proper hygiene, social distancing and wearing masks when appropriate – and the importance of recording everyone at workouts and games to track exposures.
If high school activity programs are to be conducted this fall, it is going to take the collective buy-in of everyone; and coaches and administrators, whose plates are already full, will play key roles in leading protocols for successful competition. To that end, this course was developed to assist these key leaders.
While there is hope that schools will be able to conduct sports, speech, music and other activities this fall, allowing fans in the stands, gym or auditorium may be more problematic. Although more than 300 million individuals attend high school sports in a normal year, those numbers may not be reached this year due to the pandemic.
However, if fans cannot attend high school events this fall, the NFHS Network (www.NFHSNetwork.com) has made it possible for schools to stream their events – for free. In announcing its “High School Support Program” this week, the NFHS Network is offering up to two free automated-production units (Pixellots) to stream events with no human involvement. The offer of two Pixellot units – one for indoor events and the other for outdoor contests – has been extended to all 19,500 high schools in the 51 NFHS member state associations.
This is an extraordinary offer by the NFHS Network, and to make it even better, schools also will be receiving a larger percentage of the subscription revenue generated from their events.
If individuals are allowed at events, the highly successful School Broadcast Program (SBP) is still an option. However, since many schools are unable to provide the resources or manpower for producing their own events, and with the anticipation that fans may not be permitted at games this fall, the offer of automated-production units is a major breakthrough.
Even if fans are permitted at events with masks and reduced capacity to allow for social distancing, some individuals will be reluctant to attend events with large crowds. Having the Pixellot units will allow schools to stream games and focus on conducting contests in a safe manner for players, coaches and officials.
While we all hope fans will be permitted to attend events this fall, school leaders can be assured if large gatherings are not allowed in their area, parents and other relatives or fans will still be able to watch the events live on the internet.
Thanks to the NFHS Learning Center and the NFHS Network for some good news as schools continue their reopening plans!
Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff is in her second year as executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in Indianapolis, Indiana. She is the first female to head the national leadership organization for high school athletics and performing arts activities and the sixth full-time executive director of the NFHS, which celebrated its 100th year of service during the 2018-19 school year. She previously was executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference for seven years.