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How will high school sports look in the fall? NSAA director, Ricketts tackle that question and more
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HIGH SCHOOLS

How will high school sports look in the fall? NSAA director, Ricketts tackle that question and more

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Waverly vs. Norris, 9/21

The sun sets during a Waverly football game in 2018.

It's a popular message from high school coaches to their athletes.

What you do in the summer — how you train, how much time you put into your sport — can go a long way in how a team performs in the fall on football fields, softball diamonds, cross country courses and more.

It can be the difference in a so-so season and a state tournament run.

Gov. Pete Ricketts and NSAA executive director Jay Bellar delivered a similar directive during a COVID-19 town hall meeting on NET on Thursday night.

Their message: How schools, coaches and athletes approach social distance protocols in the coming weeks and months will likely determine if there is a full slate of high school sports in the fall.

"Our goal is, hopefully we get a fall season and if we don't take care of this summer, I don't see it happening in the fall and I don't want (that) to happen, so I'm hoping everybody buys in," Bellar said.

Bellar addressed several key questions in relation to the upcoming fall season as well as protocols for summer activities.

Watch: NSAA's Jay Bellar joins Gov. Pete Ricketts in town hall 

Ricketts, on Monday, announced that high school weight rooms can open on June 1, as long as schools follow the guidelines — no more than 10 people in a group, for example.

Bellar called it the first in what the NSAA hopes is a series of steps in getting kids in the swing of things athletically.

"To bring them back, we thought a good start to this process would be let's let them get in the weight room, start to get back in shape, do their conditioning in the gym or outside, as long as they're following the protocol of 10 in a group, 10 in a room, 6-foot social distancing ... cleaning the machines the best they can," he said.

Since Monday's announcement to open up weight rooms in June, as well as the start of youth baseball and softball, Bellar and state officials have received inquiries about other sports.

Why can't volleyball teams hone their skills in a gym? Why can't soccer players hit the field?

"I know they have good points about playing volleyball and doing things like that, but I think we had to start somewhere," Bellar said. "Hopefully ... if we follow the protocol that we have in place now, maybe within two or three weeks — and I'm not saying it can — something else would open that we can do these things."

Ricketts added that if things go well in the coming weeks, then state officials can start loosening more restrictions, which would allow for larger groups of people to get together.

As for the fall, the NSAA will make those determinations at a later date.

Bellar said a big question he's been asked is, will all sports start at the same time? Sports like golf, which can are more conducive to social distancing standards, can likely start and finish on time.

But football is a different animal.

The NSAA will continue to work with the governor's office and state health officials in determining how fall seasons will look. The NSAA also is communicating with neighboring states about the same questions.

"We all know what the competition brings and a lot of times we've heard so much about the 6-foot rule and the 10 people or less, so it's going to be predicated a lot on the numbers we have in place in that point and time, and if we can deviate from some of those things so we can play those activities," Bellar said.

Asked if football games will have a different look, Bellar provided a clear picture.

"I think that's pretty safe to say," Bellar said. "I wouldn't think the game would change itself, but the way it looks is going to change, the number of people in the crowd is probably going to be affected."

Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.

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