The Oregon School Activities Association remains committed to a fall sports season, if it’s safe to do so, though the first games have been pushed back for most sports and there is no timeline for when football could start.
The OSAA Executive Board wrapped up a three-day online meeting Wednesday and Executive Director Peter Weber sent out an update to the state’s schools outlining the board’s current plans. He added that the Executive Board will meet again the week of Aug. 3 and provide further sports and activities guidance after that meeting.
“The OSAA Executive Board remains committed to providing school sports and activities opportunities for students this fall provided it’s safe to do so and within the parameters set by the Governor’s Office, Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education,” Weber wrote, noting that OSAA and its 290-plus member schools are bound to work within those parameters.
The newest update from OSAA came one day after Washington announced it won’t start sports until January and two days after California announced it will delay activities until December and split them into two seasons.
Weber added that OSAA has received countless emails advocating the safe return of school sports and activities.
“The OSAA Executive Board and staff share the passion and desire expressed by this communication and have bene advocating with the Governor’s Office accordingly,” Weber wrote. “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.”
The current plan for OSAA is to keep the same start date of Aug. 17 for fall practice for cross country, volleyball and soccer, though the first day for contests has been pushed back to Sept. 23, almost a month later than previously planned.
“New guidance from the state requiring face coverings even when exercising indoors will require further consideration regarding guidance for indoor activities,” Weber wrote. “These dates allow for local school control regarding fall practice schedules while enabling them to focus on their primary objective of reopening to students.
“Decisions schools are making regarding their instructional models — on-site, hybrid or distance learning — are still being discussed locally.”
Weber added that the new dates and each school’s ability to participate may be impacted by their instructional model as well as “any new health metrics set forth by the Governor’s Office and OHA.”
OSAA will provide additional guidance for fall contest protocols, including multi-team events, spectator policies and regional scheduling in the coming weeks.
Football, cheerleading and dance were not included in the sports cleared to start practicing because all are considered full contact activities under the governor’s and OHA guidelines. The state has not set a definitive date for a review of the current prohibition for those activities.
“Based on strategies provided by the OSAA Football Contingency Group, 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,” Weber wrote.
As for cheerleading and dance, Weber said OSAA staff is seeking clarification from the state for possible modifications to those activities could be made to allow them to take place, such as modifications to choreography and stunting.
The Executive Board also adopted two recommendations from the OSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee that will impact all sports, each surrounding student safety during the pandemic.
First, teams will not be allowed to have multiple practice sessions on the same day in any sport during the 2020-21 school year. And any practices can’t be longer than three hours, including warm-up and cool down. Students are limited to one hour of weight training either before or after practice, but not both.
Second, students must have a minimum of nine practice days in a fall sport before competing against another school. That change unifies all fall sports and provides students time to acclimatize before participation against another school. The Sports Medicine Advisory Committee will later determine if the same mandate is necessary for winter and spring sports.
If fall activities aren’t able to be held in the fall, the 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 wrote. “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.”