PORTSMOUTH — For the Ohio High School Athletic Association, it’s been a whirlwind —even a tumultuous —week.
But still, for now, the governing body’s position for Ohio high school sports is to proceed forward for full fall activities in 2020.
That was the primary point made this week in an e-mailed memo from OHSAA interim Executive Director Bob Goldring to member school administrators, as Goldring —who has named on Monday to replace the ousted Jerry Snodgrass as the association’s leader — wrote his first memo in his second stint as interim Executive Director.
The e-mail was sent to member schools on Tuesday night and posted on the OHSAA’s website Wednesday morning, covering multiple topics focusing primarily on fall sports.
And, it was an important one — as the association continues to work with the state government in response to the coronavirus threat.
The main theme, and right off the bat, Goldring wrote that “the OHSAA Office is proceeding as if fall sports will occur, meaning practices will begin on Aug. 1 and we will conduct our usual series of tournaments in 10 fall sports. As you all have seen during this pandemic, those plans can be modified or cancelled quickly. In working with the Governor’s Office, we are currently in the process of preparing a guidance document on the restart of interscholastic athletics. Further, we are planning to share a student-athlete acknowledgement/pledge document that we hope you will consider using. This educational tool will provide student-athletes with information on their responsibilities in participating during the pandemic.”
In other words, AT THE PRESENT TIME, fall sports are still on.
That certainly doesn’t mean the OHSAA wont be changing its swim stroke midstream, as history has already proven that news and information related to the coronavirus can change at a moment’s notice — and practices, workouts and ongoing training can stop on a dime.
The number of coronavirus confirmed cases in the state has spiked in recent weeks, so much so that even Ohio State University and Ohio University have halted football — and all sports — workouts with multiple positive tests penetrating those programs.
In fact, Portsmouth High has been forced to shut down all athletics activities until July 20 —as the result of a single positive test.
While it’s only pure speculation along Internet message boards and social media platforms for fans, expectations are increasing that fall sports —especially football —will eventually be cancelled.
Don’t tell that to the OHSAA, though.
Goldring, as outlined in the memo, highlighted information regarding “contact sports competitions”, which include —as part of the state’s “Phase 2” plan regarding “re-opening of contact practice for all sports” — previously prohibited 7-on-7 football passing scrimmages and basketball summer shootouts.
Those may be the two best examples, for this summer anyway, of what is defined as “travel between teams in geographically different areas for scrimmages.”
Prior to Tuesday’s order from the Ohio Department of Health, such inter-squad competitions were not permitted, but through at least July 15, they now will be.
Of course, health and safety protocols must be followed.
“Competitive games and tournaments are now permitted for contact sports,” Goldring wrote. “During this period, practices and open gyms with another team or club and inter-club/team play are also permitted so long as all teams involved agree to comply with the requirements set forth in the Director’s Order. Lt. Governor Husted emphasized that this order is extended for a short, trial basis and that the responsibility is with all of us to continue exercising safe practices to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The memo also included links to those short-term guidelines (https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/Games-Leagues-Conferences-Tournaments-Contact-Sports.pdf) and Tuesday’s DOH order (https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/publicorders/Second-Amended-Order-Guidance-Contact-Sport.pdf).
As Snodgrass stated in a July 5 memo prior to his removal as Executive Director the following day, the OHSAA is leaving this particular summer’s participation up to its individual teams and coaches.
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.”
“As mentioned previously, the OHSAA Office has no jurisdiction over team play this summer,” Goldring wrote. “The decisions to participate in a team camp and/or compete against other teams are made by local school districts – there are no OHSAA penalties. All questions should be directed to school administrators or your local health departments who have provided you with guidance throughout this time.”
Since the outset of the coronavirus threat, the OHSAA has been in near lockstep with the state’s accompanying orders.
Wednesday’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 was 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.
While football is easily — and obviously — considered “full-contact”, volleyball’s categorization wasn’t as clear-cut, as a question during a recent court proceeding “asked if volleyball was considered a contact or non-contact sport”.
Goldring wrote that Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office announced that volleyball is now “viewed as a non-contact sport, something which was previously a gray area”.
The memo stated: “We received a statement from an attorney that represents the Governor’s office that volleyball has now been declared a non-contact sport, effective immediately. OHSAA volleyball administrator Emily Gates has been in touch to request guidance be listed specific to volleyball, but in the meantime, please use the Responsible RestartOhio guidelines found on the Ohio coronavirus webpage for General Non-Contact Sports (https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/General-Non-Contact-Sports.pdf) and Contact Sport Practices and Non-Contact Sport Competitions (https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/Contact-Sport-Practices-Non-Contact-Sport.pdf), which can be found at the preceding links.”
This means volleyball joins six other OHSAA sports considered “non-contact” — including baseball, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and golf.
Competition is now permitted in volleyball — and scrimmages, contests and competitions may occur with other teams.
Meanwhile, no information on the categorization of cross country was provided.
The OHSAA also announced its #IWantASeason social media campaign, which in conjunction with DeWine’s office, the campaign attempts “to engage student-athletes and younger Ohioans in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Everyone who looks forward to return to play can join in the campaign by sharing a video or photo that emphasizes how they plan to wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash their hands more regularly in order to slow the spread and keep the path open for sports to return in 2020. Those participating in the campaign should use the hashtag #IWantASeason.”
Indeed, most — if not all — student-athletes want a fall sports season, and the OHSAA is proceeding forward for full activities.
Of course, it’s all for now.
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