On Monday, July 27, 2020, the Montana High School Association set out the guidelines for the 2020 Fall Activities for Montana schools. This was done by the MHSA Executive Board and lists different tiers depending upon the COVID-19 situation. According to the letter put out by the organization, the MHSA Executive Board, along with the National Federation of High School Associations “believes the resumption of sports another activities is crucial to the growth, development, and mental and emotional wellness of our Montana youth.”
The recommendations came from a wide variety of organizations and government entities including the CDC, National Federation of High School Sports, Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, the Governor’s directives, state and local health departments. In order to return to fall activities, the schools will follow these MHSA requirements along with the Governor’s directives and directives from their local health department.
If the state is in Tier 1, practice for fall activities will begin on August 14. The games will be played as scheduled although no multi team events except for cross country and golf will be held. There may be some changes to post season play.
Tier 2 could see the delay of the start of the season or an interruption of play. Non conference games would be cancelled. Tier 3 could see a longer interruption or delayed start for the practices. The conference season for both Tier 3 and Tier 4 could be shortened as well as the format the post season playoffs and tournaments. For all phases, the schools, teams, and spectators must follow the Governor’s phase directives including the mask requirement. Attendance will be determined by local health department requirements which may vary from county to county.
In football, shaking hands after the games, coin tosses, and other traditions will probably go by the wayside this fall. Social distancing, cleaning the ball as well as hand washing stations and individual water bottles will be the norm on the sidelines. The sidelines team boxes will be extended on both sidelines in football, and on the one sideline of the soccer field. Volleyball teams will not switch benches between sets. Cross country participants may have a staggered start and no more than 25 participants may be on the starting line at one time.
July 27, 2020
TO: MHSA SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS
FROM: MARK BECKMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
RE: RETURN TO MHSA FALL ACTIVITIES
During a recent MHSA Executive Board meeting, the Board approved various directives, requirements and considerations regarding the return to MHSA Fall Activities. Along with the National Federation of High School Associations, the MHSA Executive Board believes the resumption of sports and other activities is crucial to the growth, development, and mental and emotional wellness of our Montana youth.
The process utilized to come up with these directives, requirements and considerations included consultation with national, state and local experts from the CDC, NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), the Governor’s directives, state and local health departments and input from state activity associations across the country. For the return to fall activities, school’s will follow these MHSA requirements along with the Governor’s directives and the directives from their local health departments.
Once again, we believe that the safety and well-being of our student activity participants is paramount. These requirements, both general and activity specific, attempt to reduce the possibility of transmission of coronavirus for our student activity participants and for coaches, officials and fans of MHSA activities.
All fall sports practices will begin on the scheduled dates (Tier 1). First contests can be played on the scheduled dates if the required number of practices for that sport is met.
Football / Volleyball / Soccer
There will be no multi-team events (triangular, invitational tournaments, etc.) in the sports of football, soccer and volleyball. The status of allowing multi-teams events in relation to the current phase and restrictions in place later in the season will be reevaluated accordingly.
Golf dual meets are recommended and encouraged. Golf can have multiple team events (invitational meets with 3 or more schools present) meeting the following criteria: 1) no practice round or use of practice facilities, 2) shotgun starts are required with a maximum of 90 players on an 18-hole course and 45 players on a 9-hole course during multi-team events (one 5-some starting per hole), 4) the point of entry to the course is different to access their starting holes, and; 5) teams will play together (grouping by school), there will be no mixing of players by score. They cannot gather at the clubhouse before or after a meet. After the meet, teams must exit to their bus immediately and team and individual scores will be shared with each team.
Cross Country dual meets are recommended and encouraged. Cross Country can have multiple teams participate if the following restrictions are followed: 1) no more than 200 participants (or by the current Governor’s phase), 2) teams must remain in their own team staging area, 3) no more than 25 on the start line, 4) the next runners up will be placed in a corral before they start, 5) all runners must wear masks in the team staging area, corral and until they are called by the starter to the starting line, 6) once the race is completed individuals must immediately exit the finish line area and return to their team bus. There can be no gathering of teams after each race.
The All State Band, Choir and Orchestra Music Festival on October 14-16 has been cancelled. The MHSA Executive Board cancelled the festival due to concerns from the MMEA, MHSA limitations for fall sports and activities, and concerns of high-risk transmissions through the playing of instruments and singing. The Festival will not be rescheduled during the 2020-2021 school year.
The attendance of fans at regular season contests will be determined by the school in consultation with their local health department authority. Schools may have to submit a plan for fan attendance to their local health department for approval.
Workouts/practices should be conducted in “pods” / “bubbles” of participants with same players working out together to limit overall exposure.
- Before, during and after the contest, players, coaches, and administration should wash and sanitize their hands as often as possible.
- No out of state competition or teams traveling from out of state for competition, unless it is in a dual format and approved by the MHSA Executive Director.
- Always maintain social distancing of 6 feet while on the field/court of play when possible.
- Everyone must have their own beverage container that is not shared. Safe handling practices should be adhered during hydration, which includes refilling, retrieval and identification of water source.
- Time-outs (if applicable) may be extended to a maximum of two minutes in length for safe hydration practices. Social distancing requirements must always be followed.
- Cloth facial coverings are allowed for players, coaches and officials. Facial coverings must be a single solid color and unadorned. Face Coverings must be worn per the Governor’s directive.
- Gloves are permissible for all players, coaches and officials.
- The ball should be cleaned and sanitized throughout the contest / event as recommended by the ball manufacturer.
- Administrators must limit the number of non-essential personnel who are on the field/player surface area throughout the contest.
- Attendance at MHSA events is dependent on host site and local health department guidelines and restrictions.
- A family’s role in maintaining safety guidelines for themselves and others is very important. Make sure your child and immediate household members are free from illness before participating in practice and competition (if there is doubt stay home). Provide personal items for your child and clearly label them.
MHSA Returning to Participation – Fall Activities – Tiers
Practices* Regular Season* Post Season*
Tier 1 Start as scheduled Games played as scheduled Dates/Sites – Same
No multi-team events (triangulars, Possible playoff post
invitational tournaments, etc. with season format /
XC and Golf exceptions possible separation
Masks per Governor’s directive
Tier 2 Delayed start or Non-conference games cancelled Dates/Sites – Same
interruption classification by sport input
No multi-team events (triangulars, Possible playoff post
Invitational tournaments, etc.) season format /
Masks per Governor’s directive possible separation of
Tier 3 Delayed start Non-conference games cancelled Dates/Sites – Same
longer period of time Conference season shortened Possible playoff post
input from classification by sport season format /
No multi-team events (triangulars possible separation of invitational tournaments, etc.) sites
Masks per Governor’s directive
Tier 4 Start however Conference season shortened Post season
mid-season interruption seeding by conference tournament adjusted
No multi-team events (triangulars dates, formats and invitational tournaments, etc.) possible sites
Masks per Governor’s directive depending on location
of virus breakouts – same dates if possible
Tier 5 Long interruption Some Games /Round Robin Play Post season seed by previous year/ district or div tournament adjusted
criteria – or other? dates, formats and possible sites
depending on location
Masks per Governor’s directive of virus breakouts
Post season – playoff
only or round robin, etc.
*During all Tiers – Schools must follow the Governor’s Phase Directives, State and Local Health Department Directives regarding fan attendance (limits, social distancing, enforce the mask requirement, facility cleaning, sanitizing, etc.), travel requirements (bus maximum numbers and mask wearing, etc,) and MHSA sport specific requirements.
*Schools and teams in communities that follow the Governor’s Phase, State and Local Health Department Directives and MHSA’s current Tier and sport specific requirements will be allowed to participate.
*Schools could print “at your own risk” statement on every ticket sold for contests.
*Fan attendance – local health department requirements will differ, and schools need to consult their local health authority and be ready to submit a plan for approval if required. Schools/districts/classifications will have to determine number of tickets they will provide to the visiting team per allowed maximum attendance.
*Some schools may experience quarantines before or during a season – those scheduled contests will be considered “no contest”. If a school refuses to go to a location where contests are allowed it will be considered a forfeit. Districts/Divisions/Classifications will be responsible for determining post season seeding criteria taking into consideration these situations.
*Depending on teams available, post season formats may be adjusted according to those teams able to participate. Alternate formats – playoffs instead of central sites / single loss events / reduced qualifiers / or end of season round robin play with remaining teams.