NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – It’s been a busy week for high school athletes and referees across the state. Now that high school athletics is allowed, the New Mexico Activities Association has managed to cram seasons for 13 sports into just a few months. That has required some creativity and patience by athletes, parents, and referees.
The NMAA has been working for a year now to bring back high school sports and activities. “The first competition we had was cross country and I would tell you, it brought tears to your eyes knowing kids were back playing after a year of sitting out,” said Sally Marquez, executive director of the NMAA.
This week, all districts, including APS, got into the mix and that has required some serious juggling. “You just said it, games are on top of each other. We’re having a season and we’re going,” Marquez said.
The NMAA has condensed a year of sports into three months. One of the biggest challenges is finding enough referees. Some football games planned for Friday had to be moved to Thursday night in the metro, just to make it work. Referees are working hard, and a lot. Football refs usually call one to two games a week.
Volleyball refs maybe work two games. That’s not the case now. “In all [of] our officials, the majority of them are probably officiating every single night to make this happen,” Marquez explained.
The NMAA needs more officials. “Our seasons are at different time, so for example football are used to calling in the fall and their jobs are always around officiating. So now all of a sudden we’re moving the season to the spring so some officials are not able to call,” said Marquez.
Others have underlying health conditions and have opted out. But getting new officials on the fields and courts takes time. They have to be trained and mentored. “They’re reading the rule book, they’re doing the best they can. You can’t just throw them into a game situation and allow them to know how to handle it,” said Marquez.
But the NMAA, coaches, districts, athletic directors, and of course, the athletes have been making it all work. “They practice for five days then they started and then we started games so some schools, including those who came in late, may have three to four games a week and before, they might have only had two,” Marquez said.
And no one is complaining. “Everyone is making this work for the kids. So it is neat to see that after a year out, that we are finding a way to make it work and doing it safely and the kids are smiling and are able to be with their friends and learn life-long skills,” Marquez said.
Because of the time constraints, spring sports will play through June and they will get a longer season than fall or winter sports because they lost their season last year. The only sport that won’t have a state championship is football. However, they will have bowl-type games the first week of April. If anyone is interested in officiating, they can call the NMAA office and they’ll tell you everything you need to know.