SOUTH COAST — The good news is that students who participate in the traditional fall sports of football, volleyball, cross country and soccer will get to have a season this coming school year. The bad news is they have to wait until next winter for that season to begin.
The Oregon School Activities Association Executive Board decided Wednesday to postpone the fall season until after the winter season, which also will have a delayed start.
“The goal was to try to maximize opportunities for students, providing three distinct seasons for later in the year,” OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber said in a story for OSAAtoday.
That was welcome news for North Bend athletic director Mike Forrester.
“Everybody gets a season,” Forrester said. “It won’t be a perfect season, but it’s better than no season at all.”
The no-season-at-all scenario already played out in the spring when the golf, baseball, softball, tennis and track and field seasons were wiped out by the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to no in-school learning for the final months of the school year.
The new plan calls for all sports to have a seven-week regular season, followed by one “culminating week.” What that week looks like for the various sports will be determined later, Weber said, and will be decided in alignment with large group gathering guidelines issued by the state.
“We’ll have to work with our membership on what that would look like,” he said. “In our football contingency groups, they said that maybe that could be a bowl game. And that type of approach could be done in other activities, as well. We definitely wanted to leave room for the opportunity of some type of culminating event.”
The Executive Board’s decision follows one made by Nevada to also have shortened seasons (six weeks each) beginning with winter sports in January. Washington and California also have modified what their school sports years will look like.
The new OSAA calendar adopted by the Executive Board on Wednesday calls for the winter season for basketball, swimming and wrestling to start with the first practices on Dec. 28 and the first games on Jan. 11.
The fall season, for football, soccer, volleyball and cross country, will have its first practices on Feb. 22 and the first contests on March 8 — March 15 for football.
The spring season, for the traditional spring sports, will have its first practices on April 19 and first contests on May 3, wrapping up later than usual with the OSAA culmination week June 21-27.
All sports also will have a reduced number of contests in the seven-week regular seasons compared to normal years.
OSAA also set its culmination week for activities including cheerleading (March 8-14), dance (April 12-18), speech (April 19-25), solo music (April 26-May 2), choir (May 3-9) and band/orchestra (May 10-16).
Two weeks ago, the Executive Board pushed back the start of the fall competition season until later in September, but it changed course Wednesday following last week’s announcement by Gov. Kate Brown of new metrics for reopening schools that will result in most schools in the state starting the year with distance learning.
Weber noted that shifting the calendar to later in the year provides additional time for schools to return to a hybrid or on-site learning format.
The new OSAA association year will begin Aug. 31 with what the Executive Board is calling Season 1. Policies restricting out-of-season coaching have been removed for that season, which will run until the start of the winter sports season, allowing schools, at the discretion of their local district, to participate in any OSAA-sanctioned activity permitted by the Governor’s Office, Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education. That might include conditioning, practices and even competitions against other schools.
“The big question now is what do you do between now and Dec. 28,” Forrester said.
Some schools in the Midwestern League have already said they won’t allow any activities while they are still in a distance-learning mode, he said. Others are hoping they will be able to have some competitions.
He’s hesitant to suggest North Bend will go that far.
“I find it hard to believe we are going to have no kids in school and still have competitions,” Forrester said.
The South Coast’s athletic directors are planning to meet Friday to have a conversation about what the first season might look like and how they might be able to work together.
Weber said the first season provides flexibility around the state.
“The (Executive) Board recognized that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t what’s best for students across the state,” he said. “By waiving policy to allow regional participation this fall, local school districts will have the discretion for participation in those areas that are able to do so safely per state directives.”
The Executive Board’s decision at least provides some clarity by delaying the traditional fall season. In the spring, OSAA held out hope for several weeks for a possible spring sports season until the final decision to keep schools closed to in-school learning was made.
Forrester sympathized with the Executive Board.
"The OSAA is in a tough spot, because there are people that are going to think we ought to be playing right now and other people thinking that maybe we shouldn’t play at all this year,” he said. “I think what they did was make sure everybody has a season. It looks like they are even going to have some type of postseason.”
The next step locally will be figuring out what the first season might look like, and then only if it can be done safely.
“The last thing we want to do is put playing ahead of health,” Forrester said.
“Right now, the biggest thing is I know our student athletes are chomping at the bit just to get out and play. When it says you are going to start on the 31st, if it’s not safe enough for us to have kids in school, is it safe enough for us to have practices?”
The complete OSAA calendar, as well as a story about the Executive Board’s decision and release from OSAA, can be seen at www.osaa.org.