As run specialty retailers slowly reopen their stores this spring, many are looking forward to the possible return of high school sports in the fall — and along with it the return of the all-important cross-country and track seasons. They received a much-needed dose of good news from a report released last week by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), which placed “running events” and “cross-country running with staggered starts” in the lower risk category of competitive school sports.

This means these sports should be among the first to be allowed to return as a school activity this fall dependent, of course, on local conditions.

“Reopening is the key word in sports at all levels right now. Along with leaders of youth-level sports and the NCAA, the NFHS and its member state associations are exploring all options for conducting sports this fall,” NFHS executive director Dr. Karissa Niehoff says. “And while we all want answers, the truth is that there are more questions than answers at this point.”

The NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) document, “NFHS Guidelines For Opening Up High School Athletics,” is intended as guidance on how state associations can consider approaching the many components of opening up high school athletics and activities across the United States.

“There will also likely be variation in what sports and activities are allowed to be played and held,” the NFHS document reads. ”While we would typically have reservations regarding such inequities, the NFHS SMAC endorses the idea of returning students to school-based athletics and activities in any and all situations where it can be done safely.”

A key component of the guidance is the identification of sports that are lower risk, moderate risk, and higher risk for spreading COVID-19, with lower risk sports returning first, then moderate risk and finally higher risk.

  • Along with individual running events and cross-country running with staggered start, other sports in the lower risk category include throwing events, individual swimming, golf, weightlifting and sideline cheerleading.
  • Moderate risk sports include basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, gymnastics, field hockey, tennis, swimming relays, pole vault, high jump, long jump, girls’ lacrosse, and 7-on-7 football.
  • Higher risk sports include wrestling, football, boys’ lacrosse, competitive cheer and dance.

To view the entire report: