OHSAA offers update as fall presses on

By Paul Boggs - [email protected]

PORTSMOUTH — Now that Ohio’s “full contact” sports and inter-squad competitions are officially a “go”, it’s up to the masses to make sure they don’t stop.

With Wednesday’s finalization and release of a new and official Ohio Department of Health Order allowing for such, and which was signed off on by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine following his announcement on Tuesday to permit “full contact” sports to proceed forward, the Ohio High School Athletic Association — as usual and often — updated its member schools.

In an e-mailed memo on Wednesday, and authored by interim Executive Director Bob Goldring, the OHSAA officially received the new ODH order at 6 p.m. — and at the outset provided its link at https://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/OHOOD/2020/08/19/file_attachments/1521949/Sports%20Order%2008.19.20.pdf

“With that (new ODH order) comes a separate mandates and recommended best practices document for schools to follow for competitions. The mandates and recommended best practices are related to many of the same mandates and protocols already in place for many other sectors as they relate to symptom assessments; facial coverings; social distancing; cleaning and sanitizing, and confirmed COVID-19 cases/exposure to the virus,” Goldring wrote. “The Governor understands that interscholastic sports are different than other forms of competition because we are education-based and are able to implement best safety practices and have structure in place for dealing with COVID-19 restrictions. So if we want our students to have the privilege of competing in interscholastic athletics, it’s going to be up to all of us to make sure all mandates and protocols are being followed.”

The memo provided links to updated OHSAA sport-specific requirements, recommendations and modifications — which can be found on the association’s website at www.ohsaa.org — although the link for the mandates and recommended best practices, as formulated by DeWine’s office and the ODH, can be found at https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/Youth-Collegiate-Amateur-Club-Pro-Sports.pdf

Links to those sport-specific documents were originally included in the July 22 memo when the OHSAA released the Return to Play Recommendations document.

With the new ODH order, and as DeWine said on Tuesday, this means that the COVID-19 testing requirements for students in contact sports is no longer required.

Under another Ohio Department of Health order, which was signed on July 4 and then extended twice, all inter-squad scrimmages and games for “full contact” sports could not take place — “unless ALL teams comply with the requirements outlined in Section 10 of this (ODH) Order to minimize the spread of COVID-19. This Order applies to both public and private activities and facilities.”

In an e-mailed memo to member schools on July 28, the OHSAA announced the immediate and indefinite suspension of ALL inter-squad scrimmages and contests — and didn’t anticipate that suspension being lifted any time soon.

That suspension will now be lifted, as the soccer season is officially set to start on Friday (Aug. 21) — with the first weekend of football throughout the state set for the final weekend of this month.

The OHSAA also announced on Tuesday that once the ODH order becomes effective on Friday (Aug. 21), it will permit one football scrimmage for each school —for this weekend only on either Friday or Saturday.

The situation with fall sports was first mentioned in mid-March, but following the April 20 cancellation of the OHSAA’s spring sports seasons, the focus shifted to saving the fall.

During his Tuesday coronavirus press briefing, DeWine said that fall “full contact” sports —which have been practicing since Aug. 1 in anticipation for a season — can proceed forward, on time and as scheduled.

However, it’s going to be up to individual Ohio school districts to decide when — and or even if — those “full contact” sports start, can continue and perhaps most importantly, make it across the proverbial finish line.

As part of the plan, the number of spectators will be drastically reduced — as that issue, among many others, will be one left to be sorted out by individual school districts.

“Spectator capacity for our events are limited, with outdoor venues limited to the lesser of 1,500 or 15-percent of fixed seated capacity and indoor venues limited to the lesser of 300 or 15-percent of fixed seating capacity,” Goldring wrote. “In addition, OHSAA requirements, based on guidance from the Governor’s Office, is for schools to limit the number of players dressing for contests. The limits are 60 in football; 22 in soccer; and 15 in volleyball. For schools that have more players on their rosters than the maximum number permitted to be dressed, they are permitted to consider having these student-athletes wear jerseys and stand on the sidelines or sit in the grandstands. However, all of these additional players — just like those dressed in game uniforms and equipment — must wear facial coverings and must be socially distanced. It is recommended that home teams NOT have these additional players enter locker rooms and that schools NOT travel more than the maximum number of players dressing for contests to road games. Additionally, the OHSAA, based on guidance from the Governor’s Office, is limiting marching and/or pep bands to performing only at home contests (e.g. NOT traveling to road contests).”

The OHSAA is also launching an “inspector’s program” for this fall, “where designated individuals will be attending contests throughout the state to ensure mandates are being followed.”

“These inspectors will be asked to make contact with a school’s ‘compliance officer’ (see the Health Director’s Order for more on compliance officers) prior to the contest, they will be provided an official OHSAA pass to enter your contest and they will work with schools to ensure mandates are being followed. The purpose of this program is educational in nature…we want your student-athletes to be able to continue to compete and, in order for that to continue, we all need to do our part to help stop anyone from contracting and/or spreading COVID-19,” Goldring wrote.

The inspectors will be filing reports with the OHSAA, and violators of the mandates — depending upon the severity of the situation — would result in the OHSAA issuing consequences for these violations as prescribed in By-law 11, or “Penalties”.

In addition, the OHSAA will be developing a document for school administrators and/or the public to file when concerns over following the mandates are discovered.

Copies of these forms and further details on the “inspector’s program” will be forwarded to the member schools in the near future.

As for August’s final 10 days involving basketball, which is another “full contact” sport, the OHSAA said schools “may move forward with INTER-squad (not just INTRA-squad) scrimmages” — should schools permit.

Still, ALL COVID-19 mandates must be followed, events cannot be mandatory, and coaches “may not use a student-athlete’s performance as an indicator of which team they will make in the winter.”

Starting Sept. 1, basketball’s regular out-of-season regulations resume, including “coaches may only work with four of their student-athletes in individual skill workouts”, “athletes may participate together in non-interscholastic play”, “and open gyms may occur”.

Indeed, Ohio’s “full contact” sports and inter-squad competitions are officially a “go”, but it’s also up to individuals at-large to decide for themselves — and make sure they don’t stop.


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