COLUMBUS (AP) — The Ohio High School Athletic Association released Wednesday guidelines and specific recommendations for each fall sport as a plan to return to play.
In the statement the OHSAA said it “fully intends to support its member schools and the student-athletes who desire to compete in interscholastic athletics and will continue to assess all areas as more information becomes available.”
The document, according to the OHSAA, is a combined effort of the executive director’s office and the Board of Directors with feedback from the Ohio Joint Advisory Committee on Sports Medicine, the National Federation of State High School Associations and the Ohio Department of Health along with support from the Ohio Lt. Governor’s Office.
However, when asked about high school sports at his afternoon press conference Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said his office needs more time before recommending anything about fall sports.
“We’re going to be giving them (the OHSAA) additional guidelines based upon what we’re seeing in Ohio,” said DeWine. “Before we do that we’re going to have conversations with them. We’re not ready to announce that yet. Everybody is concerned about young people, concerned about contact sports. We all want to see our kids and grandkids in sports, whether it is in high school or continuing to participate when they are in college. We know the importance of this. We know what a season means to young people.
“Frankly, we have to get a little closer to this in time,” added DeWine. “We know training is going on. We know practices have to be taking place. We understand the timeline, but we want to see where we are and need to get a little closer before we can make any decision when it comes to that.”
The OHSAA return to play guidelines included specific recommendations for each sport. Most of the safety guidelines did not involve modifying in-game rules or play.
There were some modifications for time-outs in football, but most of the requirements revolved around pre-game precautions.
“Most of this, to me, is making sure kids are healthy before competing,” said Napoleon Athletics Director Andy Ham. “The biggest adjustment is making sure everyone hydrates safely, which is something we are working with our trainer already. But as far as the games are played, there won’t be a lot of changes.”
Many of the guidelines are on how to safely manage each sport, whether it be officials, game-day workers or travel instructions.
“It’s going to be a lot of planning and logistics,” said Ham. “The days of showing up 15 minutes before the bus arrives to leave for a game are over. We are going to have to do temperature checks and questions the players. The kids are going to have assigned seating for the way to the game and will sit with the same person on the way back.
“It is going to be a lot of working with everyone that helps things run,” added Ham. “Making sure they are aware of what we have to do. Game day just got a lot more interesting.”
The OHSAA acknowledged in its statement there will still be risk of coronavirus transmission and will continue to be until a vaccine can become widely available. It also noted every school district and each sport is different and presents its own challenges in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an attempt to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the OHSAA suggests schools should:
•Maintain physical distancing while not on the field or court of play.
•Require face coverings while not on the field or court of play.
•Reduce or greatly eliminate unnecessary travel.
•Reduce or eliminate sharing of common equipment.
•Reduce or eliminate contact frequency with student-athletes from schools and non-interscholastic programs outside of each school’s league/conference or normal competition sphere.
DeWine added one thing everyone can do to help make sure high school sports has a fall season, and that is wear a mask when out in public.
“I know everyone would like to know and we all like predictability,” said the governor. “But our want to have fall sports and our want to get back to school will depend on what we have everyone do over the next couple of weeks. We have to have everybody wear a mask.
“We can take this thing down,” he added. “I don’t have a crystal ball, can’t predict, but it is in our hands what we do the next few weeks.”
Ham said he sees the OHSAA’s return to play guidelines as a “good thing.”
“It allows us to at least start planning to actually compete,” he said.
The first official day of practice for fall sports is scheduled to begin Aug. 1.