Central-Memorial football

Manchester Central’s Joel Ayala-Casco is tackled by Memorial’s Kyle Blais during the city rivals’ contest last October. New Hampshire’s fall high school teams are permitted to begin practice on Sept. 8 — about three weeks late.

Call it a delay of games.

The fall sports season has been pushed back to Sept. 8, the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association announced Thursday. Originally, fall practice for fall sports was scheduled to begin Aug. 14 for football and Aug. 17 for other fall sports.

A decision on the starting date for competition was not announced.

“I definitely expected this, especially when Massachusetts and Maine delayed the start of their fall sports seasons,” said Dennis Pelletier, field hockey coach at John Stark High School of Weare. “I’m not sure what the delay accomplishes — I’m going to talk to my athletic director to see what the reasoning is — but I saw this coming.”

The NHIAA offers the following fall sports: bass fishing, cross country (boys and girls), field hockey, football, golf (boys and girls), soccer (boys, girls and unified), spirit and girls volleyball.

“I don’t know for sure, but my sense is it gives school districts a chance to go back to school before we go back to sports,” Bishop Guertin Athletic Director Ryan Brown said. “It gives everybody a chance to see what that looks like — the return to learn before we return to play. So I think that’s the rationale behind delaying the start of the season. At least that’s my impression.

“There are so many moving parts right now as far as schools figuring out how we go back safely, and giving people confidence to be safe as well.”

As the NHIAA news release noted, it’s up to each school to decide if it wants to participate in some or all fall sports. It remains to be seen how many schools will choose not to offer sports this fall. Portsmouth is among the schools that has publicly announced it is exploring that possibility.

Schedules may have to be revised for the teams that do move forward with fall sports

“I think the next step will be who’s in and who’s out and when are we declaring?” Brown said. “Are you in for this sport and out for the other ones or are you all-in? Once we get to that place we can start to build schedules that make sense and try to get something in for the fall.”

The delay will affect some sports more than others. Football requires preseason practice for conditioning and other reasons. Sports like golf and bass fishing may not require any preseason.

“For golf, this is probably not that big of a deal, and the reason I say that is because golf is not like most other sports,” Keene golf coach John Luopa said.

“If you’re trying out for the golf team you’re probably playing golf all summer and spring, so your game is going to be where it needs to be. As soon as tryouts are over you can start having matches. You don’t need two weeks, three weeks — whatever it is — to get in shape, or run your offense or figure stuff out.”

Pelletier said he’s not worried about a shortened preseason.

“From my perspective I’m not concerned with that at all,” he said. “I feel in about one week we could hit the ground running.”

The NHIAA has also recommended return-to-play guidelines to help schools make an informed decision about offering fall sports.

Among other things, these guidelines make recommendations on face coverings, pre-workout screening, entrance and exit strategies, travel, locker rooms and athletic training areas, athletic equipment and the number of spectators who can attend NHIAA athletic events (50% of the facility for indoor events).

In addition, sport-specific recommendations were made.

“Most kids want to play, but I understand the challenges involved,” Brown said. “This was a nice step by the NHIAA, but I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet.”