The Oregon School Activities Association has pushed its 2020-21 sports calendar back again, and switched around the seasons one more time, in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan announced Monday by the OSAA Executive Board now calls for fall sports practices to begin in February and the winter sports season, which had been scheduled to begin with practice on Dec. 28, to be the final season of the sports year, running from mid-May to near the end of June.
In addition, the three seasons were each shortened and now will be six weeks in length with the sixth week an “OSAA culmination week.”
In August, the executive board approved a plan with winter sports practices for basketball, wrestling and swimming starting at the end of December and the fall sports season of football, volleyball, cross country and soccer following that season.
But the state is seeing an increase in virus cases, with 25 of Oregon’s 36 counties currently in the “extreme-risk” category. Coos and Curry counties are not in that list, but Coos County is trending that direction. All but 42 of OSAA’s member schools are in the counties currently classified as “extreme risk.”
Board members made it clear Monday the OSAA and its member schools are bound by rules, regulations and guidance set forth by the governor’s office and Oregon Health Authority. A press release from OSAA said the organization remains in contact with the governor’s office, OHA and the Oregon Department of Education to advocate for a safe return to in-person learning and high school activities.
The board 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.
OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber said in a story for OSAAtoday that altering the calendar is a “moving target.”
“We needed to make a decision,” Weber said. “I think the board made the right decision.”
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 extreme-risk counties. Cross country and soccer are allowed in all counties.
The executive board hopes that delaying the start of the season will allow COVID-19 case counts to decrease in counties so they can move out of the extreme-risk category.
“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,” Weber said in the OSAAtoday story. “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.”
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. Starting that season at the end of the year provides the best opportunity for those sports to be held — basketball and wrestling currently are not allowed and swimming is only allowed outside.
The plan approved in August had called for each of the three seasons to have seven weeks of competition plus the culmination week, but now those seasons will be six total weeks.
“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.