OHSAA offers guidance as schools ‘Return to Play’

By Paul Boggs - [email protected]

PORTSMOUTH —Now that the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s mandatory dead period is officially itself dead, it’s time for Ohio high school sports —including those in Scioto County — to once again come alive.

But, of course, with the return of OHSAA-sanctioned sports comes summer recommendations, as the OHSAA — in following up from Friday’s May 22 memo to member schools — issued guidance to those member schools which are strongly suggested to be followed in three “phases”.

Earlier this week, and as promised, the OHSAA provided guidelines to member school administrators —which came on the heels of the association’s announcement last Thursday (May 21) that its entire no-contact period, originally set to expire on Monday, was being completely lifted.

Although Tuesday was the official date in which the dead period ceased, most schools seem to be waiting to get going with summer activities on Monday — the first day of June.

The OHSAA says “summer participation” started on Tuesday (May 26), with workouts and/or training sessions being voluntary — and that those sessions “may not be used toward team or program selection”.

“Each OHSAA member school’s athletic department will operate with the approval of their school leadership in moving forward through any and all ‘Return to Play’ guidance throughout the summer. The governmental leadership in the state of Ohio, or that of the school district, may halt or regress the phases described below if deemed necessary,” the memo said. “The OHSAA believes it is essential to the physical and mental well-being of student-athletes in grades 7-12 to return to physical activity and build team relationships with their peers and coaches. The OHSAA’s goal for this summer is to allow students to participate in scholastic athletics and activities in any and all situations where it can be done safely.”

The recommendations focus on three phases of reopening and five subheads within those three phases, which are pre-workout screening, limitations on gathering, facilities cleaning, physical activity and athletic equipment, and hydration.

The memo states that “every school/program should start at Phase One of this program and remain there for at least 14 calendar days. If there is a downward/flat trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period, a school may progress to Phase Two, where a new 14-day period of tracking of cases should begin. If there is another 14-day downward/flat trajectory of cases, schools may progress to Phase Three.”

The list of guidelines for all three phases can be found at https://ohsaaweb.blob.core.windows.net/files/SchoolResources/OHSAAGuidance2020.pdfand cloth face coverings should be considered acceptable in all phases.

As for how we got these guidelines and a ‘Return to Play’ you ask?

That’s because, last Thursday as part of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s “daily” press briefing in response to the coronavirus threat, the state and the OHSAA announced that they are in agreement to once again begin in-person skills training at school district facilities.

Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted announced that the state and the OHSAA have agreed to allow —starting on Tuesday, May 26 —ALL student-athletes to begin individual skills training at school facilities, BUT at the discretion of individual school districts.

A mere hour or so later, OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass informed member schools via memo that the no-contact period for ALL sanctioned sports was being removed — as of that same date.

Hence, ALL sports —whether they are classified as “no contact” “low contact” or “full contact” —will once again permit skills training.

Skills training is defined and the mandated and recommended restrictions are posted at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/Skills-Training-All%20Sports.pdf —as the six feet of social distancing rule applies to all players, coaches and parents.

No additional spectators are permitted at the training facilities.

In addition, Snodgrass wrote in that same memo that “the permissions for the sports announced today (Thursday, May 21) are for SKILL TRAINING ONLY. Today’s announcement does NOT permit competitions of any kind and there has been no date set for when competitions in these sports may begin.”

The OHSAA, on April 30, extended its dead period to cover the entire month of May — in conjunction with an order invoked the day before from the Ohio Department of Health, which closed ALL school buildings in the state of Ohio until at least July 1.

That order, officially overseen by ODH Director Dr. Amy Acton, “shall remain in full force and effect until the State of Emergency declared by the Governor no longer exists, or the Director of the Ohio Department of Health rescinds or modifies this order.”

Since then, the school closure order has been amended — as now individual school districts have control over their own athletic facilities, both outdoor and indoor.

But, in its guidelines, the OHSAA addressed geographic inequality in the Buckeye State, and said that “until there is a cure, vaccine, or effective treatment is readily available, social distancing and other preventative measures will be the ‘new normal’ during any aspect of sport in Ohio.”

“Due to the nature of the outbreak, there will be inequities due to geography within the state,” the memo said. “It is unlikely that all students will be able to return to- and sustain- athletic activity in all schools/communities at the same time.”

The OHSAA stated that it “will continue to work in collaboration” with DeWine, Husted and the ODH “to adhere to any and all state orders and/or recommendations.”  


By Paul Boggs

[email protected]

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved