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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Aug 21, 2020

NJSIAA Sports Advisory Task Force Sets Precedent for Other States

By Tim Morris

Back in May, the NJSIAA established a Sports Advisory Task Force with the assigned task of developing guidelines for a safe return to high school sports in the fall. It was made up of athletic directors from throughout the state.

Then-Christian Brothers Academy Athletic Director Vito Chiaravalloti was on the committee when it formalized the guidelines for reopening.

“Part of the goal was just to answer questions about returning safely,” said Chiaravalloti, who stepped down from his position at CBA at the end of July. “There was a lot of difficult work to do.”

Difficult as it was, the task force came up with guidelines for the safe return that has the state headed toward a fall season. Among the goals was ensuring the health and safety of the student-athletes, keeping competition as local as possible, stressing participation, helping student-athletes re-engage with their peers and developing a model that minimizes the risk of cancelling the fall season. There were contingency plans as well if the situation developed and a season had to be condensed or canceled. The committee also looked into ways of moving fall sports to the spring if that necessity should arise.

“We outlined the best way to have fall sports,” said Chiaravalloti. “We wanted to put something out there that would give schools a good idea what fall sports would like.”

Going forward, Chiaravalloti said the “biggest challenge is the uncertainty.”

The first thing the task force announced was the delayed opening of the fall sports to the week of Sept. 28 and establish requirements for summer workouts. School practices would start Monday, Sept. 14, two weeks after the opening of schools. The reason for the two-week hold on practices after school opened is to allow student-athletes the chance to get acclimated to the new classroom conditions. NJSIAA Chief Operating Officer Colleen Maguire said it was important for the student-athletes to first return to school and academics before participating in athletics and extracurricular activities.

“High school sports are school-based, so we need to first ensure all is in order with the opening of our schools,” Maguire said in a press statement.

Chiaravalloti remarked that one of the most important decisions that the task force made was leaving the final decision to play or not up to the school districts.

“We left it up to the districts,” he explained. “Every district is different. At the end of the day, they have to make the decision that is best for their district.”

The emphasis this fall, Chiaravalloti noted, is on participation; that’s why there will be no state championships. In November, only sectional championships will be contested, and all schools that want to participate can. The regional competition is to minimize travel and help level the playing field, allowing each region to address its own issues.

By coming up with its own guidelines for reopening sports, New Jersey has been a model for other states, according to Chiaravalloti.

“New Jersey has been a trendsetter,” he explained. “Other states have pointed to us as the best way to play and play safely. We were ahead of the curve. I’m proud of the work we did.”