In a move made in hopes of seeing some spring sports teams get to play this summer, the board of directors of the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) has voted to grant relief of portions of its bylaws that include limits on contact between coaches and student-athletes during summer months.

Dependent upon approval from local and state health officials, the board voted to make the summertime “dead period” and limits on contact optional for the summer of 2020. A MSHSAA bylaw requires member schools to normally establish a period of nine consecutive days (beginning on a Saturday) in which no contact takes place between coaches or directors of MSHSAA-sponsored activities and students enrolled in the member school, or who will be enrolled at the school during the next school year. With the recent unprecedented decision, a school may either choose to comply with the dead period or to allow teams to conduct activities.

The decision also relieves portions bylaws that limit teams to 20 days of contact during the summer, and member schools may allow teams to have more than 20 days of contact in which coaching or instruction takes place in any given sport.

MSHSAA executive director Dr. Kerwin Urhahn said the abrupt changes caused by COVID-19 altered normal education systems and prompted schools to ask for access to students this summer.

“The membership asked about what possible flexibility and modifications to bylaw restrictions could be offered,” Urhahn said.

If there is no local, state or national clearance for safe contact with students, then actions MSHSAA has taken to open the door for summer activities won’t matter.

“But in an effort to be prepared for what we hope is possible, this action was taken to grant some relief for the member schools,” Urhahn said.

In other action, the Board of Directors voted to allow seniors to be viewed as enrolled students through the summer, which allows them to represent their high schools in summertime interscholastic competition.

“Hopefully, this will allow schools to play contests against other schools to provide closure and recognition for students and allow teams and kids to play together this summer,” Urhahn said.

All summertime activities will be optional, as students cannot be required to participate.

Urhahn said all decisions about summer sports activities – including contact, access, practice, games, conditioning, etc. – must first be approved by the CDC, state and local health departments, the governor and local mayors.

“The end of social distancing and ‘safe at home’ is still not clearly visible yet,” he said, “and summer activities may not be possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its own timeline.”

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