Some New Jersey athletes finally are getting back onto the playing fields this summer, under new guidance on youth and recreation sports amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to the state Department of Health, organized sports activities will be able to restart June 22. The permission extends only to outdoor activities that do not involve person-to-person contact or routine interaction between individuals closer than six feet together.

Based on the same state guidance, risk categories were assigned as follows:

  • Low-risk sports: golf, tennis
  • Medium-risk sports: baseball, softball, soccer, outdoor basketball
  • High-risk sports: football

As of June 22, low-risk sports may resume competitions, while medium-risk and high-risk sports may resume non-contact drills and practices, state health officials said Monday.

Based on current trends of COVID-19 activity, the health department has anticipated that competition for medium-risk sports could resume July 6, while full practices and competitions for high-risk sports are likely to resume July 22. Those dates have not yet been formalized in an executive order from Gov. Phil Murphy or other official action.

Lacrosse, though an outdoor sport, was not explicitly mentioned in guidance on on risk categories issued Monday.

Sports teams and organizations also have been given new health and safety protocols, including limits on equipment sharing, rules for disinfecting and sanitizing equipment, and required health screenings for athletes, coaches and staff.

Recreation and youth sport competitions or tournaments also must observe the state's current limit on outdoor gatherings. As of Monday, that stands at 100 people, with an anticipated (But not yet official) expansion to 250 people by June 22 and 500 by July 3.

State officials noted sports under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association or the National Collegiate Athletic Association must follow by those associations' rules.

The NJSIAA in turn, issued its own statement, calling the state's guidelines “another positive step in our collective effort to return to play," while saying they don’t directly apply to high school athletics.

"High school athletics cannot function independently from schools – which, of course, are currently focused on the safe return of more 1.3 million students, including 283,000 high school student-athletes," the statement continued. It said scholastic sports present "far more pressing and complex considerations" than youth and recreation-level programs.

The NJSIAA still expected to have guidelines for high school sports together by Friday, June 19, with summer workouts starting on or around July 13.

As for college athletes, the NCAA is issuing return plans relative to each of its respective divisions.

NJ has more than 40 NCAA Division I teams for men's and women's sports, including at Rutgers University, Seton Hall University, Monmouth University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey Institute of Technology Saint Peter's University and Princeton University.

As of June 8, the NCAA Division I fall championships remained unchanged, as the Division I Competition Oversight Committee said the plan was to keep the same formats, timelines and previously determined sites for fall championships.

On June 11, it was announced that Division III fall sports will be able to start practice for fall sports for the upcoming 2020-21 season on August 10 or the first day of class, whichever is earlier.

The Division II Administrative Committee has extended its "quiet recruiting period" for all sports through July 31. During a quiet period, a college coach may have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents on the college’s campus.

Coaches also may write or call college-bound student athletes or their parents during that time.

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