The New Mexico Activities Association has announced that summer workouts may begin on Monday, June 15. The NMAA traditionally does not regulate summer activities, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the association decided it was necessary in order to ensure a level playing field for schools around the state whose communities have been impacted differently by the virus.

Under the new guidelines, teams are required to work out in groups, called pods, which are limited to five kids. A coach may only work with one pod of kids at a time per day in order to limit the number of contacts for everyone involved.

“The pod ratio is one to five so coaches can be with multiple pods but they cannot be with multiple pods at the same time,” NMAA executive director Sally Marquez said in a release.

“For example, a coach can have a pod from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and then those five kids leave and another five come in and he can with that pod of five. We just cannot have a coach that has five kids over here and five kids over there and that coach going back and forth or rotating pods at the same time.”

The pods are expected to follow social distancing, with the kids within each pod staying six feet apart from each other, as well as there being distance between the pods.

How (pods) many are allowed in the gym is up to the schools to determine based on the space they have available, as well as the number of coaches.

For sports like cross country, it’s possible for one coach to provide that direction for everyone if it’s done in a staggered way.

“If you are a cross country coach and you have one group of five that are going to go one direction and another group of five that are going to go another direction, at some point you’re going to have one coach with ten kids together,” Marquez said. “We cannot have that happen. For cross country, I suggest you stagger those starts. One comes at 8 a.m., for example, and then the other five come at 8:15 and run in the other direction. You just need to make sure kids are not congregating together.”

Multi-sport athletes are allowed to participate in practices for every sport they may play, so long as the practice times for the two don’t interfere, so long as they remain with one pod for each sport.

The pods are intended to allow the teams to easily contact trace in the event of an athlete contracting COVID-19, so they are able to quickly inform everyone else who came into contact with the infected party.

“The reason for these pods is so that if somebody does get COVID-19 we know who was with that kid at all times,” Marquez said.

“So, we need to make sure we do the monitoring form so we know every single day who these kids have been in contact with.”

Every coach will be required to get tested for COVID-19 before they are allowed to interact with their athletes and must do it within a seven day time period prior to the start of their summer workouts.

Initially, the guidance was the tests must occur within 72 hours prior, but following discussions between the NMAA and the governor’s office, the window was expanded to allow for fluctuations in how long it takes to get test results.

The NMAA isn’t requiring any sort of waiver for students to participate in the first phase of workouts, but the option is there for school districts to require one if they so choose.

In the event someone involved in workouts does test positive, the health department and its contact tracers will be able to reach out to everyone who came into contact with the person, and the guidance will come from them.

“The guidelines say wait and you will hear from the Department of Health,” Marquez said. ”With what they are putting together in the governor’s office if somebody tests positive they are hiring people to make sure they figure who that kid has been in contact with and give direction.

“Now we are talking about the school and the coach. They will be giving direction as to what to do next in those situations.”

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Cameron Goeldner grew up in Boulder, Colo., and attended the University of New Mexico. He covers everything sports for all Valencia County schools.