The pause on indoor sports due to the coronavirus pandemic was lifted and the new year will see youth sports resume in North Jersey.
But there will still be restrictions in place that will leave games and practices only being attended by players, coaches and officials.
“We recognize that any continuance of the pause would likely mean that many sports seasons would have to be scrapped entirely,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during a press briefing Dec. 30. “We do not wish to see that happen. We know that sports are important for both the physical and mental wellness of our youth and our other residents.”
While indoor venues will be allowed to open Jan. 2, 2021, teams will only be able to exceed the state’s current 10-person limit on indoor gatherings during practices and games. That will formalize what the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) had said is a spectator ban due to the indoor gathering limits.
Murphy said the decision to allow indoor athletics was made as the safety protocols in place and the stability of COVID-19 related cases over the last month gave state officials the confidence to allow youth sports to resume.
“Although stability is at an uncomfortably high level, I have to say, we feel confident we can move forward by continuing to deal with any outbreaks or other issues on an individual case basis as opposed to a blanket prohibition,” Murphy said. “As long as folks play it straight, they play it right, they do the right things, we’re open for business (starting) Jan. 2.”
The governor acknowledged discussions were held about extending the pause to Jan. 9 or Jan. 16, but there was no evidence the numbers would be much different to justify a delay.
“We’re going to be watching this. We have to watch this,” Murphy said. “All options remain on the table…that brings me no joy to say that, but that’s the way it’s got to be.’
The ban on intrastate youth sports competition will continue, with an exemption for college and professional sports teams.
“We know intrastate travel and associated activities among teams are particularly risky, as these settings create opportunities for the virus to spread,” Murphy said. “We continue to work with our colleagues in Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts to maintain the regional compact prohibiting intrastate youth hockey that we announced Nov. 12.”
High School Schedule
All indoor youth and adult team sports were placed on a full pause on Nov. 30, from Dec. 5 through Jan. 2, 2021. The pause on youth and high school sports was centered around team sports as Murphy cited 20 outbreaks from youth hockey resulting in 107 cases at that time of the pause. Hockey was the only high school sport affected by the new restrictions, with NJSIAA pushing back the start dates for ice hockey practice to Jan. 3 from Dec. 14, competition to Jan. 15 from Jan. 4, 2021 and competition ending March 1, from Feb. 17, 2021.
The start date for basketball, fencing and bowling practice is set for Jan. 11, 2021 and games Jan. 26, 2021, while the first day for swimming and winter track & field practice is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2021 and competition Feb. 16, 2021. The newly formed Season 3 for gymnastics, girls volleyball and wrestling is slated to begin March 1, 2021 and competition March 16, 2021.
The season’s are to be finished March 6, March 27 and April 24, 2021, respectively.
For the Spring sports schedule, there will be some overlap. Virtual contact for all sports can begin March 1, 2021. Due to third party contracts and weather considerations, boys tennis practice can begin March 26, 2021 and competition April 19, 2021. For boys golf, practice begins April 1, 2021 and competition begins April 9, 2021.
All other Spring sports practices can begin April 1, 2021 and competition on April 19, 2021. Practice for baseball and softball pitchers and catchers are allowed to start March 26, 2021.
All regular season rules and regulations will be in effect, including the maximum number of contests and postseason qualification.Post season for Spring sports will be held from June 1-20, 2021. Golf and tennis dates are still to be determined due to the use of third party facilities.