Governor Hutchinson asks AAA to submit plan for high school football, other sports

Coronavirus

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Governor Asa Hutchinson announced the creation of a high school sports advisory group in Arkansas on Friday as the state moves towards resuming contact sports this fall.

Hutchinson said he’s asked the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA) to submit its plans to the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) to have football, volleyball, and cheerleading this fall.

This will allow the ADH to develop its guidelines in preparation for the start of the season, he said.

Non-contact drills with helmets can proceed for football between August 3-7.

“My message for the football players for Monday is to grab your helmet and be ready for practice,” Hutchinson said. “Then, after practice, I want you to grab your mask so that you can protect others that you might be around.”

Hutchinson said communication from student-athletes and parents on the importance of sports in their lives influenced his decision to move forward.

“I hope that next week there’s zero positive cases among athletes in Arkansas. That might not be the case. We’re going to learn from the experience as we go along,” the governor said.

Hutchinson has appointed 14 physicians, mental health professionals, coaches, and educators to the High School Sports Advisory Group, which he created to consider the safest way to conduct sports and activities for the 2020-2021 school year.

Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe will chair the group. Kelvin Gragg, superintendent of the Dumas School District, is a vice-chair. The other members of the High School Sports Advisory Group are:

  • Dr. Lowry Barnes, orthopedic surgeon and chairman of UAMS Department of Orthopedics. 
  • Jacob Brown, Therapeutic Family Services. 
  • Paul Calley, dean of students, assistant football coach, Southwest High School.
  • Jason Cates, athletic trainer at Cabot School District; chairman of the Arkansas Sports Medicine Committee.
  • Laura Crow, volleyball coach at Conway High School.
  • Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, state epidemiologist, Arkansas Department of Health. 
  • Fitz Hill, State Board of Education. 
  • Dr. Michael Israel, associate professor of Adolescent Medicine and Director of Sports Medicine at Arkansas Children’s.
  • Dr. Lee Johnson, state representative. 
  • Janet McDonald, behavioral health professional at Pinnacle Point. 
  • Lance Taylor, director of the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA). 
  • Dr. Joel Tumlison, physician specialist, Arkansas Department of Health.

“Since June 1, the kids have shown up in great numbers which speaks volumes because they want to be around their friends, their teammates but more importantly, they just want the opportunity to play,” said Casey Dick, Fayetteville High School’s football coach, referring to voluntary workouts. “They’ve done that in order to have a foundation to have great season this year.”

This is a developing story.

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