The Arkansas Activities Association released the covid-19 guidelines for basketball teams across the state Friday.
The guidelines include mandates for face coverings and social distancing at games and practices, as well as issuing scheduling modifications for the regular season.
Schools that play football will be allowed to schedule up to 26 varsity basketball games and 24 junior high games. Schools that don’t have football may play up to 34 varsity games and 28 junior high games.
There will be no multi-school events such as tournaments, classics and showcases.
Conway girls basketball Coach Ashley Hutchcraft has her team play in several nonconference tournaments, including the Dandra Thomas Invitational in Conway, the Bulldog Classic in Fayetteville and the Sandra Meadows Classic in Texas.
Not having those tournaments is a blow, but Hutchcraft said she understands the decision.
“If it means we lose the tournament games, then still play our conference games and the state tournament, we’ll do what’s best for the kids,” she said.
Hutchcraft said she and other coaches started planning weeks ago on adding games to make up for the loss of the nonconference tournaments.
Conway is scheduled to open the season Nov. 12 at Class 5A state semifinalist Little Rock Christian. The Lady Wampus Cats also have nonconference games scheduled at Jacksonville, Jonesboro, Fayetteville and West Memphis, and will host last year’s Class 5A co-state champion Greenwood on Dec. 1 at Buzz Bolding Arena.
Hutchcraft currently has 22 games on the schedule, but is looking for more.
Russellville Athletic Director Johnny Johnson said he and the Cyclones’ coaches — boys Coach Kyle Pennington and girls Coach Ryan Koerdt — are working to ensure their teams can get 26 games while keeping their students healthy.
Even with modified guidelines set for this school year, Johnson said he and other athletic directors are following the guidelines and will continue to do so.
“As ADs, we’re bred to monitor and adjust,” Johnson said. “The ADs in this state are good at doing that.”
According to the AAA guidelines, teams are encouraged to practice social distancing when it comes to the benches, keeping the distance to at least 6 feet or more. Additional chairs or rows are recommended, and players and other personnel on the bench should wear face coverings, or masks, when they’re not participating.
Hutchcraft said the bench guidelines will be a challenge.
“There’s so much to a basketball bench,” Hutchcraft said. “What if a player comes out of a game? They could go a long way from you. We will have to strategize.”
Johnson said at Cyclone Arena, his staff has added three rows of chairs behind the team bench for volleyball and plans to do the same for basketball.
Other modifications include officials standing 6 feet or more away from a player making an inbounds pass, and suspending pregame and postgame handshakes.
For spectators, family groups must be spaced 6 feet apart. Schools must have a separate entrance and exit point at their facilities, as well as have tape, paint and/or signage to mark areas where spectators can and cannot sit. Everyone inside the facility must wear a mask, except players who are participating.