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NFHS Director: HS Sports Address to ‘Have A Different Look’

August 27, 2020 / Athletic Administration
In her third year as the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), Dr. Karissa Niehoff has been at the forefront of the national discussion surrounding high schools returning safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

She’s penned a number of editorials on the well-being of student-athletes, preserving high school sports, and the continuation of sportsmanship in a ‘new normal’.

This week, in her latest editorial, Dr. Niehoff dove into the future of the high school sports landscape and the different look it may have in 2020.

“The 2020-21 sports calendar is unlike any other – football pushed back to winter or spring in 17 states, the option of split seasons from fall to spring, volleyball matches contested outdoors, 7-on-7 touch football instead of 11-player tackle football, fewer games within a season and reduced number of fans, just to name a few modifications.

“Despite these differences in how sports and other activities look from state to state, there is one constant that has not changed – the desire on the part of students (backed by their parents in many cases) to participate in education-based high school athletics and performing arts. And that desire has been taken to the extreme in some cases,” the NFHS executive director wrote.

While noting the number of schools who have opted into the 2020 fall sports season, she then turned her attention to the ripple effect of schools and districts choosing to forgo athletic seasons.

“However, with no sports being played in several states this fall due to the pandemic, some families have uprooted their lives and moved to another state – or to other schools within their own states – to enable their sons or daughters to play sports in an area that has a lower spread of the virus – with the singular focus of earning a college scholarship.

» RELATED: Where Each State Stands with Fall Sports

“Ordinarily, moves of this extreme nature are not athletically motivated. But it would be hard to defend many of these recent transfers – across the country or across town – as anything but related to athletics.

“While eligibility issues would vary from state to state, the more universal concerns are philosophical and ethical in nature. Most importantly, no state associations have canceled any high school sports for the 2020-21 school year. While some states have moved all activities to January 2021, plans are still in place for all sports in all states to be conducted,” Niehoff wrote.

To read the full editorial from the NFHS executive director on the future landscape of high school sports, click here