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Social media was buzzing this weekend with the “Let Them Play” campaign calling for the return of sports in New Mexico. High school sports, administered by the New Mexico Activities Association, are delayed as a result of state health orders due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. College sports are also unable to hold practice in state or host games. Both basketball teams from the University of New Mexico have relocated out of state to compete this season, following in the footsteps of the school’s football team.
“The NMAA’s primary focus remains the safe return of school-based sports and activities for our youth,” New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez said in a statement Tuesday morning.
High school sports are currently scheduled to start on Feb. 1 for football and Feb. 15 for volleyball and cross country. Basketball, soccer, swimming, cheerleading and wrestling are slated to begin in March with traditional spring sports—tennis, golf, baseball and softball—starting in early April.
“In addition to the practices listed in the latest Public Health Order, the NMAA has been working with both the Governor’s Office and Public Education Department to establish guidelines specific to interscholastic athletics that will help attain this goal,” Marquez continued. “These programs are an important part of the educational process for the students of New Mexico.”
Marquez is hopeful that all sports will be able to be played this school year.
“We’re all frustrated. I think we’re all tired. But like I’ve been saying, the goal has always been that we can play all sports for the 2020-2021 school year. I myself personally do not want to look back and say we could have, would have, should have. We need to make sure that we exhaust everything possible in order for our kids to get back on the field.” she said. “Right now, the goal is to still play all sports, and I’m not going to change that goal until we are told we have to change that goal. So, let’s stay positive, let’s continue to work for our goal, and we are going to play sports again New Mexico.”
Professional sports, however, are able hold pre-season practice but are unable to hold any games according to the state’s reopening plans, which were updated earlier this month. The clause is similar to New Mexico United getting permission from state officials to hold practice at home during its 2020 season.
Another New Mexico professional sports team is the Duke City Gladiators. The Gladiators along with its Indoor Football League teams did not compete during the 2020 season.
“We are remaining hopeful that we, along high school sports, can play this year,” said Gladiators’ owner Gina Prieskorn-Thomas. “We can sympathize with high school athletics, parents and coaches on their eagerness to play. Last year we saw our season cancelled just hours before we were set to hit the field for our first IFL game. High school spring sports also were cancelled last year. We understand the frustration, we get it, we live it just as many parents, coaches and students do. However, we must remain positive and hopeful that we can soon return to fields and courts across New Mexico.”
The team’s 2021 season is currently scheduled to take place with the Gladiators tentatively hosting its first IFL home game on April 3 at Tingley Coliseum. The first home game, however, remains in question as Tingley is a state-owned facility and is currently being utilized for a COVID-19 vaccine site.