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NIAA issues statewide suspension of spring sports

The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association announced Friday that NIAA-sanctioned sports for all of its member schools have been suspended effective Monday, March 16 until further notice.

The announcement came after a morning conference call among the NIAA’s Legislative Commission, which consists of the superindentents of school districts with member schools.

The suspension makes official statewide what individual districts and school have been doing for several days. The Clark County School District was among the earliest to suspend athletic events, which forced the hand of Pahrump Valley High School, whose schedule is dominated by Clark County schools.

Jason Odegard

“We didn’t have much of a choice after CCSD made their decision, since that is who we primarily compete against,” PVHS Athletic Administrator Jason Odegard said Friday, the morning after the school announced its decision. “I do feel that the best interest of our students will be kept in mind as we proceed through this situation.”

The NIAA decision goes much further than banning competition among member schools.

“During the suspension, NIAA member schools are not to compete in games or contests,” NIAA Executive Director Bart Thompson wrote in a memo to member schools and districts. “Member schools are not to conduct practices in NIAA-sanctioned sports at any location. Neither member schools nor their coaches nor student athletes are to hold meetings. Member schools are not to allow students or coaches at any NIAA member school to use the school’s athletic facilities for a practice, game or contest in any NIAA sanctioned sport regardless of the affiliation (club or otherwise) of the group seeking to use the facilities. The use of athletic facilities for currently scheduled classes as a part of the regular school curriculum such as P.E. classes is allowed.”

The fact that the decision by both Pahrump Valley High School and the NIAA bans practices when schools remain open was an inconsistency noted by Trojans track coach Fred Schmidt, among others.

“So as much as it is an inconvenience, looking at the big picture I can accept the decision,” Schmidt said. “However, I do wonder why they are not canceling school since that is truly the big picture. That would have the greatest success at stopping gems, instead of hampering those student-athletes who are exercising and instructed on proper nutrition and most likely have a healthier and stronger immune system. We are open-air sports as well.

“So I don’t really agree with the “no practice” situation, considering this could be temporary and when given the green light to resume, these athletes would be back at ground zero with an even shorter season.”

The NIAA decision takes the responsibility away from schools and districts who were unsure how to proceed, especially in more rural areas in which the coronavirus has yet to make an impact. It also ensures, as much as possible, a level playing field if and when spring sports return.

“The NIAA suspension, applying to all member schools, is in part to reduce competitive inequity among member schools when the suspension is lifted,” Thompson wrote in his memo. “When the suspension is lifted, the minimum practice requirements that had been fulfilled for both teams and individual students prior to the suspension will be honored and will not need to be repeated.”

Odegard said that while stopping everything is an unfortunate situation, it made sense to err on the side of caution.

“I guess that it is difficult to see whether this is an overreaction or not, because it is hard to decipher the magnitude of the situation, how much is real and how much is being built up,” Odegard said. “I do think that there has been a chain reaction of decisions that have been made starting with professional sports and cities and states mandating the cancellation and limitation of events.

“The most important thing for those making decisions on our level is that the safety and well-being of our students has to be first and foremost. Hopefully, there will be more concrete information on the spread and containment of the virus in the coming days so that the proper decisions can be made going forward.”

Added Schmidt: “I think they are being proactive verses reactive. We will pray for the best and prepare for the worst.

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