HELENA — A year after the high school spring sports season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Montana High School Association has released specific spring sports requirements and considerations for holding competition in 2021.
“Once again, we believe that the safety and well-being of our student activity participants is paramount,” MHSA executive director Mark Beckman said in a release. “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.”
With COVID-19 case numbers and positivity rates declining since the peak in the fall, the MHSA is moving ahead with all spring sports activities. Practice at every level started on Monday, with competition set to begin as early as next week.
“Our spring athletes were not able to participate last year and after tracking and evaluating the current COVID information, the spring season will provide more opportunities than were approved for fall and winter activities,” Beckman added.
While the release outlined how sports will operate during the regular season, postseason formats and procedures are yet to be determined after the MHSA executive board reviews and evaluates how the regular season progresses.
Requirements and considerations for each specific spring sport outlines in the release can be found below:
Track and field
Dual and triangular meets are recommended and encouraged. Multi-team invitational events can be held if the proper protocols are followed including masking when required by local county health and/or the local school district host, proper social distancing practiced, teams gathering in their assigned areas only, etc. The limits for meets are as follows:
Number of Teams Participating / Entry Limit per Event
The number of teams includes both junior varsity and varsity teams. For example, five schools enter a meet with JV and varsity events – that would be 10 teams participating – five JV and five varsity teams.
If a meet is run with JV and varsity competition, each one is considered a team (JV and Varsity).
If a meet is varsity only, there can be no JV competition.
If the meet is a varsity and JV meet, all JV events must be offered.
Dual and triangular Meets: No limit on entries
4-10 teams (invitational) participating: 5 entries per team per event
11-20 teams participating: 4 entries per team per event
20-25 teams participating: 3 entries per team per event (25 teams is the maximum per meet)
Schools need to check with local county health on holding multi-team events.
Top 10 and Top 8 Track and Field Meets will be allowed because the number of participants is set at 10 or 8 participants per event.
Contests between two teams, including doubleheaders are encouraged. Multi-team events will be allowed if held at a complex with more than one field and entry and exit to and from those fields for players is controlled. Also designated areas for home and visiting fans need to be provided and plans for entry and exit to those areas included. Also, there can’t be common gathering areas for teams and fans (behind backstops, between fields, around a concession area, etc.).
Dual meets are recommended and encouraged. Multi-teams will be allowed if held at a complex with multiple courts and the ability to segregate teams while waiting to play along with entry and exit plans to the courts. Also, there can’t be common gathering areas for teams and fans.
Golf dual meets are recommended and encouraged. Golf can have multiple team events with a limit of 90 golfers. If a shotgun start is used, the point of entry to the course should be different to access their starting holes. They cannot gather at the clubhouse before or after a meet. Players can be assigned to groups by scores during the spring. After the meet, teams must exit to their bus immediately and team and individual scores will be shared with each team.
A shotgun start does not have to be used, however there can’t be any gathering by teams waiting for their tee time (they must stay in their team staging area practicing proper social distancing until called to the tee).
Warm-ups - During multi-team events, if a shotgun start is used, teams can report to their starting hole and use the previous green to practice chipping and putting. The amount of time allowed will be determined by the meet manager. If a shotgun start is not used, warmups on the driving range and putting green will not be allowed because of the amount of team members gathering in those areas.
After the meet, teams must exit to their bus immediately and team and individual scores will be shared with each team.
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 those competitions are approved by the MHSA Executive Director.
- Always maintain social distancing of 3-6 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 according to local health department directives, facility requirements and/or school requirements. If there aren’t requirements, the MHSA encourages the wearing of face coverings by coaches, players and fans.
- 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.
Schools must follow Local Health Department Directives regarding fan attendance (limits, social distancing, enforce the mask requirement if required by local county health, local school host and/or facility, facility cleaning, sanitizing, etc.), travel requirements (bus maximum numbers and mask wearing, etc,) and MHSA sport specific requirements.
*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.