As professional sports such as basketball and baseball return to play this month amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the question still remains what the 2020-21 sports season will look like for prep sports.
And according to the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA), the answers are not so simple.
The OSAA Executive Board met in a closed work session July 20‐22 to discuss the latest updates on the Coronavirus pandemic as it relates to OSAA member schools and the upcoming school year. The Board had lengthy discussions about several topics related to school reopening and school sports and activities.
OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber released an official statement follow the meetings and stated the Board remains committed to providing school sports and activities opportunities for students this Fall, provided it’s safe to do so and within parameters set by the Oregon Governor’s Office, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).
“During the past few weeks and months we’ve received countless emails advocating for the safe return of school sports and activities,” Weber said. “Just as schools will not look the same in the Fall of 2020, it’s clear that school sports and activities will not either. It’s important to remember that any participation that can be done safely is a positive step forward for the physical health and mental well‐being of students and their communities.”
At the work sessions, Weber said the OSAA Executive Board decided to delay the first contest date for cross country, volleyball and soccer until Wednesday, September 23 (previously August 27). The original first Fall practice date of August 17 remains in place at this time. New guidance from the state requiring face coverings even when exercising indoors will require further consideration regarding guidance for indoor activities, Weber said.
“These dates allow for local school control regarding Fall practice schedules while enabling them to focus on their primary objective of reopening to students,” Weber said. “Decisions schools are making regarding their instructional models – on‐site, hybrid or distance learning – are still being discussed locally. The dates referenced above, and an individual school’s ability to participate, may be impacted by their instructional model, along with any new health metrics set forth by the Governor’s Office and OHA.”
Additional guidance for Fall contest protocols, including multi‐team events, spectator policies, and regional scheduling considerations, will be forthcoming, according to OSAA. Additionally, the Board stated that there is potential that contest limitations, playoff structures and championship events will need to be altered.
Currently, football is considered a full contact activity per the Governor’s and OHA guidelines and is prohibited. No definitive date has been established by the state for a review of this prohibition. Based on strategies provided by the OSAA Football Contingency Group, Weber said it is necessary that any football restrictions be lifted by September 28 in order to have a modified regular season this Fall that would include some type of restructured postseason.
“If Fall activities aren’t able to be held in the Fall, the OSAA Executive Board is committed to working with its contingency groups to exhaust all options for these activities including shifting, condensing or stacking seasons, like our neighbors in Washington and California, with the fundamental objective of providing participation opportunities for students,” Weber said. “These changes may ultimately force schools into choosing which programs they will offer and students into choosing between activities, but the Board believes that a potentially difficult choice is better than no choice.”
Additionally, cheerleading and dance/drill are considered full contact activities per the Governor’s and OHA guidelines and are currently prohibited. No definitive date has been established by the state for a review of this prohibition.
The OSAA staff is seeking clarification from the state as to how possible modifications to these activities could allow them to take place and are also working to develop best practices for rehearsals and considerations for competitive seasons that would include modifications to choreography, stunting/lifting, etc.
Music and Speech & Debate Contingency Groups will begin meeting in late July/early August focusing on competition elements and considerations for the coming year. Band, Orchestra and Choir resources, including guidance for ways to return to in‐person instruction safely, can be found on the OSAA COVID‐19 page.
The Board adopted two new recommendations from the OSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC). Both recommendations surround student safety and the deconditioning of students during the pandemic.
The first change prohibits multiple practice sessions on the same day for the 2020‐21 school year. No single practice session shall be longer than three hours, including warm‐up and cool down. On days with a single practice session, students are limited to a maximum of one hour of weight training either before or after practice but not both.
The second change mandates a minimum of nine practice days for any student participating in a Fall sport or activity.
“This unifies Fall sports and activities and provides students time to acclimatize before participation versus another school,” Weber said. “As Winter and Spring seasons approach, the Board will consult with the SMAC to determine if this same mandate is necessary.”
In alignment with Oregon Department of Education’s Safeguarding Student Opportunity Clause, the OSAA is amending the academic waiver process for the 2020‐21 school year. Schools will be able to use transcripted grades from the grading period prior to the COVID‐19 showdown to determine eligibility for students that are academically ineligible based on incompletes from the final grading period of 2019‐20.
OSAA said these students will not be denied access to school sports and activities provided that the student was eligible entering the final grading period of 2019‐20, the school has a Credit‐Earning Assurance Plan in place for that student and the student maintains eligibility in the current grading period based on progress reports.
“The OSAA Staff has received several inquiries about students wanting to take a year off school and then returning in the Fall of 2021,” Weber said. “The OSAA Executive Board continues to support current OSAA policy allowing students eight consecutive semesters to participate with no additional eligibility being granted.”
The OSAA Executive Board will meet again the week of August 3 as they and the staff anticipate additional information regarding reopening plans by schools and further school sports and activity guidance from the state.
For more information on Oregon prep sports you can visit http://www.osaa.org/coronavirus.