The 2021 tournament season is upon us. And with that comes a lot of questions regarding COVID-19 protocols that are in place at events taking place throughout the region.
The COVID-19 protocols for Great Plains sanctioned events in the state of Nebraska and Southeast Iowa are driven by what local mandates are currently in place. Certain counties and cities are stricter with capacity regulations than others, and the tournaments in those locations must adhere to those guidelines. Facilities can choose to be more restrictive if they would like, but not less restrictive.
Everyone in attendance (including players, coaches, officials and spectators) MUST wear a mask over their mouth and nose. There are no exceptions to this. If people cannot wear a mask for health reasons, for the safety of everyone else, the Region asks they not attend the event.
“The goal during this challenging time is to provide opportunities for players to play in a safe and healthy environment,” said Great Plains Region Commissioner Craig Wiedel. “There are numerous studies that show the benefits of physical activity during this time as well as the negative effects when players do not have this. To reach this goal, we NEED the help of parents and adults to help make sure protocols are being followed and understood by the players.”
While a staff member at a tournament might not be on hand every minute of the day to enforce the rules, it is expected that adults (spectators, officials and coaches) do their best to police themselves and their teams.
“We need adults to be adults and do the right thing,” Wiedel said. “We need adults not to try to sneak extra people into facilities. We need adults to follow mask mandate protocols by wearing masks over their nose and mouth. We need adults to use common sense and socially distance themselves. We need adults to understand that we may not be using down refs in some situations where the court setup may be too tight, and therefore some calls may be missed. We need adults to afford the officials, coaches, players, spectators and administrators the grace to do what they can in these unique circumstances to allow the athletes to play the game. We are doing everything we can to allow some spectators into events, but we cannot promise that this will continue if adults cannot be adults. We are all in this together and we ask for rational communication if there is a concern so that we can work on solutions together,” Wiedel stated.
There will be variances in rules at events due to geography and the size of the event and the amount of space in a facility. Some events can allow more spectators if the building capacity is larger or the county regulations are loosened. Some events might allow fewer spectators based on indoor regulations set by the county or by the club or tournament director hosting the event.
These differences are not set by the Great Plains Region unless the Region is running the event. The events ran by the Great Plains Region include the Great Plains Gauntlet (to be held at the CHI Health Convention Center on February 6-7), the Great Plains Regional Championships as well as the Great Plains Region Bid Qualifiers which teams qualify for the National Championships held throughout the United States.
If you are attending any events hosted by the region, the Great Plains Region staff and board of directors will decide how many spectators are allowed which adheres to the strictest of recommendations from local governments and the CDC.
“Great Plains Region will provide all tournament directors and club directors suggested guidelines and protocols that we recommend, but due to the local variances, the local event is responsible for setting and following the final protocol,” Wiedel said.
Great Plains Region certified officials will be given recommendations from the region on how to adjust their work responsibilities. However, officials are not the mask police for athletes or spectators. The responsibility of making sure athletes stay masked on the court is the job of the coaching staff. The tournament director is responsible to make sure spectators are wearing masks as well as maintain proper social distancing in the bleachers, in line at restrooms or waiting to pay at the door.
Before each match officials will conduct a traditional USAV captains’ meeting and coin toss with one captain from each team properly spaced 6 feet apart.
Officials must always wear a mask while officiating a Great Plains Region sanctioned event. Officials can use a whistle under the mask or use an electronic whistle. Line judging flags are not recommended unless the official sanitizes the flags between every user.
Teams will be instructed by the official to not change sides in between sets or during a third deciding set and not to touch hands with another teammate while making a substitution. If a floor captain approaches an official during the match, they must remain 6 feet apart and keep masks on while talking.
At the conclusion of the match, the official will instruct each team to wave to the opponent rather than shake hands. Officials must sanitize or delegate the work team to sanitize the score table in between each match.
Great Plains Region staff will follow up with referees after events to see if any of these protocols need to be adjusted.