The Oregon School Activities Association pushed its 2020-21 sports calendar back again this week, a move applauded by South Coast officials because it keeps the chance alive of all sports having a season.
The OSAA Executive Board decided Monday to delay the start of the first competition season to February and to move the traditional winter sports of basketball, wrestling and swimming, which had been scheduled to start practice on Dec. 28, to the end of the school year. Basketball and wrestling currently are not allowed in Oregon under rules during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and swimming is only allowed in outdoor pools.
Now the first competition season will include the fall sports —soccer, volleyball, cross country and football — with practice beginning in February.
In addition, the three seasons were each shortened and now will be six weeks in length for competition, including an “OSAA culmination week.” The schedule the executive board approved in August called for seven-week seasons with an additional culmination week.
“With the time we have, six weeks is perfect,” Marshfield athletic director Greg Mulkey said. “We are still going to be able to play a quality number of games.”
Under the new plan, practice for the fall sports would begin Feb. 22 for cross country, soccer and volleyball and Feb. 8 for football, with contests starting March 1 for all those sports. Full-contact football is not currently allowed by the state of Oregon and indoor volleyball is not currently allowed in counties deemed extreme-risk by the state, which make up the vast majority of Oregon’s population. Cross country and soccer are allowed in all counties.
OSAA is bound by rules, regulation and guidance from the Oregon Health Authority, governor’s office and Oregon Department of Education.
“All of our conversations with the Oregon Health Authority, and following the news, it appears that the models are showing that things are going to get worse before they get better,” OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber said in a story for OSAAtoday. “As we’re looking to provide as much time as possible to lower case counts — and get counties out of the extreme-risk level, if possible — we thought that this timeline made sense.”
“Under the circumstances, we know we would not be able to do anything until late February,” he said.
Moving basketball and wrestling to the end of the year also made sense, since it is the only chance those sports have to be played this school year.
“The biggest thing is it will allow our seniors to be able to finish their careers, especially the three-sport kids,” Mulkey said.
North Bend Superintendent Kevin Bogatin, who is on the executive board, said the goal is to provide opportunities for all students involved in athletics and activities.
“This is a really challenging decision,” he said. “We value activities and athletics and know that (they are important) on the emotional/social side of this. We are trying to hold out hope for everybody, which is why nothing got canceled.”
With the new plan, the traditional spring sports of baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track and field would have practice begin on April 5, with the six-week competition season starting April 12. All of the spring sports currently are allowed in all counties.
Practice for the traditional winter sports would begin May 10, with competition starting May 17.
“Obviously, they’re shorter seasons, but they also provide three distinct seasons and continue an opportunity for all kids to be involved, hopefully,” Weber said. “It’s shorter than we would like, and not as soon as we would like, but we feel like it’s realistic and it’s something that we can put into place.”
The schedule for activities sponsored by OSAA also was revised to allow more time for school buildings to be accessible to their programs.
The new schedule for culminating week for the activities includes April 19-25 for speech, April 26-May 2 for solo music, May 3-9 for dance and drill, May 10-16 for cheerleading and May 24-30 for both choir and band/orchestra.
The executive board considered other possible schedules, including a two-season plan with nine-week seasons. Golf and swimming would have been included with the fall sports in that proposal and basketball and wrestling included with the spring sports.
Ultimately, the board decided stacking sports would have created too much difficulty for smaller schools, Weber said.
The board also considered moving football to later in the year, but did not support that idea due to concerns from the OSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee that a later contact football season would require modifications to the fall 2021 football season, OSAA said in its news release.
As it is, there is a good chance football won’t be allowable in its traditional tackle format by February, but both Mulkey and Bogatin said if that is the case, the state will look to do something like the seven-on-seven competitions that Marshfield and North Bend have had for the past several weeks.
“If we can’t do contact, there will be some kind of non-contact option,” Bogatin said.
Meanwhile, the executive board also extended the current Season 1 period through Feb. 21. Marshfield and North Bend High Schools have conducted a series of sports during the current season, with Myrtle Point, Reedsport, Brookings-Harbor and Bandon joining in some of the sports.
“We’ve had success with that,” Bogatin said. “We’ve been supported by our local boards. That’s been helpful for our county.
“I have been encouraging people statewide to do those. I think it’s important to keep kids as active as possible, even if we aren’t doing competitions.”