Well the word is out and by now and most Carlsbad high school sports fans have to have heard that the prep sports slate for 2020-21 is back on. However, this year’s teams will be seeing a much later start with somewhat abbreviated seasons. That’sespecially true for CHS’ football and soccer programs, which aren’t scheduled to compete until winter. While fall golf, cross country and volleyball are set to get underway on October 5, the Cavemen football and CHS soccer programs won’t take to theturf until February.Although starting late might be viewed as a disappointment, the state is trying its best to allow kids to get back into the classroom and on the fields of play as much as it safely can. It’s all about the new norm and learning to deal with COVID-19. But whatever transpires this school year, it should be obvious that New Mexico doesn’t want this year’s prep sports programs to suffer the same fate as did its 2019 spring sports teams which had to be shut down.Hoping to playWith state officials scrambling earlier this year trying to figure out what to do to in order slow down the spread of COVID-19, spring sports in New Mexico became a hot topic filled with uncertainty.P rograms were left in limbo as they waited to find out what their fate would be. Programs like John Tigert’s Cavegirl softball team. The Cavegirls, runner-up at state in 2018, were odds-on favorites to win the Class 5 4A district title in 2019 and move on to the state playoffs once again. An opportunitythey never got to pursue.“Not knowing whether or not we were going to get to play was tough on everybody,” said Tigert. “We kept hoping things might work out well enough for us to get to play some sort of schedule but that didn’t happen.” “And ina lot of ways things really haven’t changed that much for this year,” said the Cavegirl coach. “Even though our sports programs here at CHS do have schedules for 2020-21, that could change in a heartbeat for any or all of us, should COVID-19 spike around the state, here in Carlsbad or at school.”Circling the wagonsPrep sports teams might do well to pay attention to what’s currently going on with college programs and professional teams around the nation. Some have already shut down for the fall due to COVID-19, while others are striving to keep their seasons alive, some of which have had to shut down temporarily due to an outbreak of the virus among players and coaches. Just how an increased outbreak of COVID-19 could impact a team’s participation during the season here in New Mexico is still unclear, but the obvious solution would be to suspend or shut down play once again. While athletic programs may not have a say in how other communities and programs around the state may be addressing the issue of COVID-19, a team’s coach and his players do.Teams that practice social distancing, wear masks and wash hands frequently at school, practice, home and while out and about will greatly increase the odds that they, and the teams waiting behind them, will get an opportunity to compete in 2020-21. Keep safe, and just maybe, keep playing. Circle the wagons CHS and good luck.