For now, there will be no practice for Taos High School sports teams.

On Saturday (July 4), incoming athletic director Mae LaBella sent out a text to coaches letting them know that practices would be suspended for the time being, citing what she said was a “protocol infraction” and a concern for a rise in cases of COVID-19 due to the holiday weekend.

The decision was made by a combination of people, including the board president James Sanborn, superintendent Lillian Torrez and herself, LaBella said.

“The way it worked is, we have the NMAA guidelines and then what we have the coaches do is come up with a plan on how they would meet those guidelines,” LaBella said.

LaBella wouldn’t go into detail about the protocol infraction that in part prompted practices to be suspended, but did clarify what an infraction might be.

“Protocol infractions would be not following the guidelines such as congregating or not wearing masks for example,” LaBella said. Taos football coach Art Abreu Jr., however, said that the text from LaBella conveyed that some coaches were not wearing masks. “I guess someone made an accusation that some of the coaches weren’t wearing masks,” Abreu said.

LaBella added that the decision to cancel practices was two-fold, however, and not due simply to the allegation. She said that a rise in COVID-19 cases was of concern, and pointed to New Mexico’s cases being over 200 for consecutive days.

Currently, as of press time (July 7), the daily case rate has surpassed 200 for five days straight. July 4, which posed 281 cases, was the second-highest daily case rate since cases have been tracked statewide. Taos also saw a steady increase in cases with one to two new cases a day over the prior week.

And while LaBella said that canceling practice over a spike in cases fell in line with what other school districts around the state were doing, she declined to elaborate on which other schools were doing so, and referred that question for superintendent Lillian Torrez. Torrez simply stated that other districts are suspending practices, too, but didn’t mention which ones.

However, the NMAA said that districts “like Las Cruces, Gadsden, Deming and Los Lunas postponed their summer workouts until next week, July 13.”

LaBella said that teams that were currently practicing were volleyball, football, baseball, softball and basketball.

Anita Rodriguez, head coach of the Taos volleyball team said that while she is disappointed practices are canceled, for now, she understands that the health and safety of her players are of utmost importance.

“Right now I think they are doing it for safety purposes,” Rodriguez said. “I’m not too worried about it, it’s for the safety of our athletes.”

Rodriguez said that canceling practice won’t necessarily effect players as far as development goes.

“For it having to stop, I think practicing hurts more if anybody gets sick,” Rodriguez said. “More than anything our priority is to keep our kids safe and their families safe.”

Taos girls basketball coach Eric Mares said that he had over 30 girls show up to summer practices. Now with practiced being canceled, he plans on connecting with his players by creating a virtual basketball camp, he said.

LaBella, who is taking over as athletic director in tumultuous times, said that she wants to bring a sense of unity between everyone even with practices currently being canceled.

“Something else I wanted to add is that the coaches have worked extremely hard to ensure safety of athletes and staff by developing compressive plans and protocols so that student-athletes could maintain some normalcy while keeping them safe,” LaBella said. “[I] really want to recognize the efforts and commitment of our coaches to their programs and their athletes.”

A Taos Municipal Schools board meeting is set for July 23, at which the board will vote on whether practices should continue or not, LaBella said.

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