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As the fall sports season begins, it's time to clear my mind. I know, some of you are thinking "this won't take long," but there are a couple items I would like to address.

Recently, I reached out to new Section IV Athletics Executive Director Bill Bryant and he noted the section had formed a task force committee which is dealing with COVID-19 issues. It consists of six superintendents, 10 athletic directors from each of the five leagues in the section and an athletic trainer. They've met twice and have and come up with some recommendations for schools to follow heading into the start of the fall season.

Recommendations from the Aug. 19 meeting:
• Indoor sports (volleyball, girls swim) all will wear masks (swimmers while on deck).
• Outdoor sports (cheerleading, boys & girls cross-country, football, field hockey, boys golf, boys & girls soccer, girls tennis) will be optional to wear masks outdoors.
• Coaches who are not vaccinated are strongly recommended to wear masks outdoors.
• Social [physical] distancing will still be the norm both indoors and outdoors.

Recommendations from the Sept. 1 meeting:
• Indoor spectators with no limits, but masking for all. Some schools may limit spectators due to seating capacity [swim] in certain venues and physical distancing guidelines. This will be the decision of the host school.
• Outdoor spectators:  This will be determined by the host school.
• Contact with the host school and communications will be paramount; the home school protocols will be followed and honored by the visiting school.
• No formal handshakes before or after the contest will be allowed, but alternate signs of sportsmanship may be developed by each school. 

Unfortunately, the school districts are still not enforcing the policy regarding mask wear. There are still dozens of athletes who wear their masks just below their nose, just below their bottom lip and even under their chin.

I can understand the occasional slip under the nose and lip when an athlete is involved in a vigorous athletic activity, but under the chin!? Realistically, the only sport where the mask could ever slip under the chin is wrestling. It clearly should not be below the chin during the playing of the national anthem.

Once again, there is a nationwide shortage of sports officials. The National Federation of High Schools has acknowledged the problem dates back at least a decade.

Already this season, at least one school has had to reschedule a football game due to a shortage of officials.

While there is a general lack of interest in officiating across the country, the underlying reason we are seeing a drop in officials is because of fan abuse. The officials are tired of being chastised by fans who think they know the game better than the officials. My take on it has always been that if you think you can do a better job, grab a whistle. Be positive and not a jerk. If you can't act appropriately. the majority of us would rather you be seen and not heard.

The Candor Central School District adopted a spectator behavior policy to deal with fans who act inappropriately. Quite honestly, I would love to every school district adopt similar policies.

Unfortunately, I am ending this piece on a sad note. Former Daily Review (Towanda, Pa.) sports editor Bob Baker passed away recently at age 64 following a battle with cancer.

He exemplified what was and always should be the number one facet about high school sports reporting — giving young athletes the recognition they deserve.

When Glenn Rolfe brought me on board at the Evening Times (Sayre, Pa.) as a part-time sports writer back in the 1980s, it was conversations with both Bob and Glenn which helped me progress as a sports writer.

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