SCIOTO COUNTY — Indeed, what a difference a year makes —and it’s more than quite the contrast from last summer.
As the calendar turns every year to and beyond the 4th of July, that’s also when the Ohio High School Athletic Association — and high school sportswriters throughout the Buckeye State — start focusing almost exclusively on the upcoming fall sports season.
The OHSAA, on Monday, even reminded us of that with a tweet on Twitter — that the 2021 golf season officially tees off on Aug. 5, with mandatory practice in the remaining fall sports set for, as always, on Aug 1.
But right there, and actually right here and right now, we’re already at a point of certainty compared to a full year ago.
As June turned into July of last year, and Independence Day quickly came and went, July and August —for myself anyway —was ALL about the pursuit for answers from the OHSAA on whether or not fall sports were going to happen, since the coronavirus threat was very much still with us at that present time.
It actually, with this fast-spreading Delta variant, still is —but by now, the coronavirus vaccine has been out there for almost six months.
Of course, the OHSAA’s answers depended on the decisions of the Ohio Department of Health and Governor Mike DeWine, who incrementally approved the go-ahead of “non-contact” sports such as golf and girls tennis to volleyball and cross country.
It wasn’t until Aug. 18, a Tuesday to be exact and one full week ahead of the official start of the football regular season, that finally the “full-contact” sports of football — and futbol (soccer) — got their long-awaited green light to go ahead with a campaign.
With that, and although the football season looked drastically different with only six regular-season games getting played prior to the playoffs, our long-lasting statewide nightmare was finally over — over whether or not we would have a fall sports season.
I’m often asked in the spring about how I am spending my summer —usually not knowing for sure until it truly arrives in mid-June.
But for four months of 2020, from April 20 to Aug. 20, that question could easily be answered— because the majority of that time was spent documenting it in editions of The Portsmouth Daily Times.
Every Tuesday and Thursday at 2 p.m. was spent watching DeWine’s press conferences for updates involving fall sports —while all day during the week was monitoring the OHSAA website for sometimes daily member school updates.
Without immediately looking back, the number of OHSAA-related stories —from football-related to anything involving fall sports guidance — only increased.
The legwork — primarily deciphering those memos — was monotonous and often times tedious, but instead of EVERY conversation speculating about whether or not fall sports were going to happen (when I was in the grocery store, after weekend mass, or via e-mail, social media private message or text messages), audiences were informed to simply “keep reading”.
In fact, on Facebook posts, these stories were introduced “and so it continues”.
Truth be told, like the high school sports teams, it was an “offseason” like no other.
But thankfully, luckily, mercifully, this summer is not occupied on that topic —which became more like a beat.
Those OHSAA memos are now infrequent, and are much shorter in length.
The only repetitive information appearing this summer: “In the sports of baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball and volleyball, coaches may coach their own student-athletes on non-school teams between June 1 and July 31, 2021 without restriction (this was previously known as the 10-day rule).”
Participation can not be mandatory, and in football, only non-contact participation is permitted.
The mandatory no-contact period for coaches in the sports of baseball, basketball and softball returns on Aug. 1 (2021) and remains through Aug. 31 —when “any coach, paid or volunteer, approved by the Board of Education to coach in those sports is prohibited from providing coaching, providing instruction or supervising conditioning and physical fitness programs or open gyms to members of a school team in their sport. This includes any type of tryouts in or out of school for purposes of non-interscholastic competition.”
Finally, for the 2021-22 academic year, schools ARE PERMITTED to charge admission for interscholastic scrimmages — as the OHSAA has not yet determined if this regulation will become permanent.
Already, in this first full week of July, normal offseason workouts are taking place for fall sports —whereas they did last season with noteworthy restrictions and/or changes.
And, unlike last season for the “full contact” sports, there will be intersquad scrimmages prior to the first soccer matches or football games in mid-to-late August.
The 10-week regular season — for football — begins the week of Aug. 16, with the top 16 schools in each region qualifying for the playoffs that begin the final weekend in October.
By that time this coming fall, hopefully the focus —and our sports stories —still squares on the games or matches themselves, instead of spending a second summertime writing about IF they even take place.
What a difference a year makes.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved