OHSAA reopens contact practice for all sports

By Paul Boggs - pboggs@aimmediamidwest.com

PORTSMOUTH — After some small steps — with avoiding legal traps — in the restart process, there was a rather giant and important leap made on Thursday —as far as the Ohio High School Athletic Association is concerned.

That’s because, as of Monday and according to a memo to member schools e-mailed on Friday afternoon, the OHSAA is allowing its schools to conduct regular workouts, training and open fields or open gyms for “full contact” sports.

In other words, it’s back to regular practice for these activities — although several strict social distancing guidelines as part of the statewide response to the coronavirus threat still remain.

And, they will continue to do so — as actual inter-squad competitions still remain prohibited.

Friday’s encouraging written words by OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass, especially for fall sports, come following Thursday’s significant announcement by Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted.

Husted said contact practice, otherwise outlined as “Phase 2”, may start as of June 22 —although it is NOT required to do so.

“Phase 2 will reopen contact practice for all sports,” Husted said, during Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s “daily” news conference. “This means basketball, football, lacrosse and other contact sports can resume scrimmages and full-training regiments as long as the safety protocols are observed. The start date for Phase 2 will be June 22.”

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

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.

As for what “Phase 2” means, Snodgrass addressed the term — and the distinction from “Phase 1”.

“With Thursday’s announcement, the permissions granted on May 26 for low/no-contact sports and contact sports (skill training) are being revised on the www.cornavirusohio.gov website to now be called ‘Phase 1.’ Phase 1 is what is currently permitted by the Governor’s office in respect to competition and skill training that was permitted beginning on May 26,” he wrote. “Phase 2 permissions will begin on Monday, June 22. Mandatory and recommended restrictions are posted at: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/Contact-Sport-Practices-Non-Contact-Sport.pdf.”

The OHSAA already waived its “10-day rule” for the summer of 2020, so there is no limit on the number of coaching days for workouts, training, open gyms or open fields.

Although, local health departments do “continue to be given control/oversight of schools and facilities within their jurisdiction. They retain the right to restrict permissions in Phase 2.”

In addition to resumption of regular “full contact” sports practices, all “non contact” or “low contact” sports may continue with competitions previously granted beginning on May 26.

The memo also stated that “daily assessments of participants must still occur as previously required, ‘spectators’ (parents, others) are permitted but must follow restrictions that include social distancing, and athletic trainers have restrictions identified that include wearing facemasks when treating an individual.”

And, social distancing still applies to players and coaches.

“While there is no restriction on the number permitted to attend open gyms/fields/facilities, any individuals not participating in intra-team play or skill sessions must remain socially distanced,” wrote Snodgrass. “For example, if you have 20 individuals playing in two open gym cross-court games, any remaining individuals must remain socially distanced when not playing. Consider strongly limiting attendance for this reason.”

Among the recommendations Snodgrass wrote were “consider assigning oversight to one staff member to comply with all mandated and recommended restrictions and consider posting signage at your facilities emphasizing the health and safety restrictions for the events in your various facilities.”

The original skills training identified from May 26 may still proceed as well.

Snodgrass also emphasized that the “Phase 2” restrictions only allow for intrasquad practices and competition within the same school program at the same site.

Thus, “7-on-7” football passing scrimmages, basketball summer shootouts and team camps remain off limits.

“In the context of the Governor’s orders, ‘scrimmage’ refers to games/competitions being played only with members attending your ‘open gym’ or ‘workout.’ Competitions between different schools or communities is NOT permitted at any time during Phase 2 for contact sports,” Snodgrass wrote. “While many of us have received communications from different venues/colleges announcing ‘team camps,’ there is still no date announced by the Governor in which these would be permitted. Under Phase 2 restrictions, they currently are not permitted.”

There are no mandated restrictions about teams participating in out-of-state events or competitions, since each state has different restrictions.

However, “the CDC guidelines for sports lists individuals/teams from one geographic area traveling to another geographic area as the highest risk for spreading COVID-19.”

Since the outset of the coronavirus threat, the OHSAA has been in near lockstep with the state’s accompanying orders.

Friday’s memo was the latest in a series of communications from and actions by the OHSAA, which included an April 20 announcement that ALL 2020 spring sports seasons were officially canceled.

The focus since then has been the fate of 2020 fall sports, although Snodgrass said in a June 12 memo that he is optimistic that the fall seasons will begin on schedule.

Official practices for fall sports are set to begin on Aug. 1, with the first weekend of Ohio high school football being the last weekend in August.

Snodgrass wrote that “while ‘Phase 3’ appears as the inevitable next step, there has been NO suggestion or indication of what the date for launching ‘Phase 3’ would be.”

But for now, it’s one small step at a time — although with Monday’s beginning of “Phase 2”, that indeed is a rather giant leap.


By Paul Boggs


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

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