HAYS—Fall sports practices started Monday for Hays High School and Thomas More Prep-Marian, with both schools employing enhanced health and safety protocols in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Face coverings are commonplace. Social distancing is strongly encouraged. Hand sanitizing is the norm, not only for players and coaches, but fans too.

Hays High assistant principal/activities director Lance Krannawitter said Western Athletic Conference officials met this summer to discuss fall sports and come up with league guidelines.

WAC schools will require face coverings for fans at indoor sports; in the fall, that would be volleyball. For outdoor sports such as football, masks will not be required if fans practice social distancing. If social distancing is not possible, face coverings will be strongly encouraged. Krannawitter said HHS officials will monitor adherence at home games to see if it becomes an issue that needs to be addressed.

Activities director Troy Schulte said TMP will not require fans to wear face coverings at outdoor events, but would do so for indoor activities, such as volleyball.

Schulte said TMP will not limit the number of fans at games and will encourage social distancing. HHS also will not limit the number of fans and will make provisions for spacing out students at home football games. The pep band will be moved to another location and the student section will fill in where band members normally sit. Students will either practice social distancing or wear masks. Hays High staff also will conduct temperature checks before fans enter the gym at volleyball matches.

Athletes, coaches, trainers and team managers also will follow safety protocols at both local schools. Schulte said a major focal point this fall is changing the mindset of players and coaches, that it is not a problem if an athlete feels ill and can’t participate. He doesn’t want the coronavirus to spread. Playing time will not be affected.