What do the NFHS guidelines mean for football?

On Tuesday morning, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) released a 16-page document recommending guidelines on the reopening of high school athletics in seasons to come. The subcommittee within the NFHS that devised the guidelines was the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC).

The document provided guidelines for each phase of reopening, with the idea that each state’s athletics associations defer to their state’s phase of reopening in accordance with the White House/CDC plan. California entered Phase 2 in early May.

You can check out our general rundown of the document here or read the entire document here.

What does this mean for football specifically? It’s different for 7-man football and 11-man football.

Phase 2 (current phase)

Allowable for all sports in Phase 2 are non-practice workouts in which up to 50 individuals may gather outdoors, with no more than 10 people in a room at any given time. Social distancing of at minimum six feet must be enforced at all times, indoors or outdoors. Most guidelines of Phase 1, which is now in the past, are still recommended, notably, not sharing a ball between multiple players in any drill.

There are also numerous procedural guidelines involving daily screening and sanitation of facilities and gear in the reopening plan that apply to all types of athletics.

7-man football was deemed “moderate risk”. So, modified 7-man football team practices are allowable in Phase 2 as long as they meet all the aforementioned criteria and continue all required screening and recording processes. That includes working out in “pods” of five to 10 players, barring individuals who have shown flu, cold, or fever symptoms within the past 24 hours, and recording which individuals were in attendance on which days.

Phase 3 (upcoming)

Once Phase 3 starts, full-fledged practices and competitions are permitted in 7-man football. 11-man football was deemed “high risk”, so modified practices of up to 50 individuals are allowable once Phase 3 starts, but full-fledged practices and competitions are not.

NFHS recommends that each state association reassesses updated epidemiological data at some point after the beginning of Phase 3 to determine when regular practices and competition for high risk sports like 11-man football should resume. Social distancing of three to six feet should still be observed at all times outside of contests or close-contact elements of practice.

With many, if not most, 11-man football rosters exceeding 50 players before even factoring in other team personnel such as coaches, it’s unclear where that fits in.

When will Phase 3 start? Governor Newsom said on Tuesday morning that “it’s not even three months away. It may not even be more than one month away.” That indicates that under the NFHS recommendations, 7-man football could fully start up again as early as June, at which point modified 11-man practices could start as well.

There is not currently a timetable for when the second stage of Phase 3 would begin in which the guidelines would recommend full reopening of 11-man football practices.

One last component of the NFHS recommendations that significantly impacts football season and all other athletics is this: until state/local health departments end restrictions on mass gatherings, only athletes, coaches, officials, event staff, medical staff, security, and media would be allowable.

Scorebook Live will keep you up to date with all information regarding the status of high school football and other athletics.

Thank you for joining the discussion on SBLive!

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