ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – During an already challenging time for New Mexico students, a startling survey shows some high school student-athletes are not making the grade. Usually, if a student-athlete is failing a class, they’re ineligible to play fall sports, but because of these unusual circumstances, the New Mexico Activities Association is giving them a reprieve.

“Students are struggling,” said La Cueva Volleyball Coach, Steven Archibeque. “I team teach our volleyball class and just talking to them, they are struggling, they are stressed out. A lot of high anxiety.”

That’s the same message you’ll hear from coaches across the state: student-athletes are having trouble adjusting to distance learning because of the pandemic, especially freshmen.

“The transition alone into high school as a freshman is really difficult so to try to do that in this pandemic where it’s all online, it’s making it even tougher for the freshmen,” said Sandia Baseball Coach, Chris Eaton.

Courtesy of: New Mexico High School Coach’s Association

In a recent survey by the New Mexico High School Coaches Association, they surveyed coaches from 86 different schools across the state, representing 8,703 student-athletes. They found that 36% of their student-athletes had one or more failing grades.

“I was not too terribly surprised just based on the feedback and experience I’ve had thus far with the online teaching,” said Eaton. Which would make student-athletes in volleyball, cross country, and golf, the sports the state gave the green light to play in the fall, ineligible if the student is failing a class.

Students are required to have a 2.0 GPA and no failing grades in order to play. “There needs to be a change someway, somehow just putting on you as the practitioners as to what the change should be,” said NMAA Executive Director, Sally Marquez.

But the NMAA decided to give students a clean slate for the fall semester and now eligibility will be determined at the end of the semester, rather than by the six or nine week grading periods. Some NMAA members believe this is a way to be compassionate to the students’ struggles with distance learning, while still holding them accountable for their grades. “I’d like to find a way to get the kids to play, I’d like to give them the opportunity,” said APS interim Superintendent, Scott Elder.

KRQE News 13 asked the coach’s association if 36% of failing athletes is a huge difference from previous, pre-pandemic years but they couldn’t comment because they didn’t have the data on hand. After the fall semester is over, if students want to play spring sports, their fall grades will determine their eligibility.