OSAA sketches out latest options, concerns for fall sports season


July 25, 2020 — The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) Executive Board met in a closed work session July 20 and 22 to discuss the latest updates on the Coronavirus pandemic as it relates to OSAA member schools and the upcoming school year. 

During the two-day meeting, the board had lengthy discussions about several topics related to school reopening and school sports and activities.

“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 parameters set by the Gov-ernor’s Office, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE),” said OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber. “The OSAA, with its more than 290 member schools is bound to work within these parameters.” 

Weber explained that, during the past few weeks and months, the OSAA board has received countless emails advocating for 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 been advocating with the Governor’s office accordingly,” Weber said.  “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 OSAA Executive Board will meet again the week of Aug. 3, when additional information is expected to be available regarding reopening plans by schools, along with guidance from the state pertaining to school sports and activities.

At its work sessions, the OSAA Executive Board discussed the following topics and made decisions in accordance with current guidance and directives from the Governor’s office, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon Department of Education (ODE).

During Governor Brown’s most recent press conference last week, she stated that additional guidance regarding face coverings, health metrics and school re-openings is coming soon. 

That guidance will impact ongoing OSAA decisions for school sports and activities during this evolving situation. 

Fall Sports: 

With the uncertainty of school reopening plans in many parts of the state and the timeframe related to those decisions, the OSAA Executive Board has decided to delay the first contest date for cross country, volleyball and soccer until Wednesday, Sept. 23. The previous date had been set for Aug. 27. 

Given their full-contact status under the guidance of the Governor’s office and OHA, football, cheerleading, dance/drill are all currently prohibited.

For other fall sports, the original first fall practice date of Aug. 17 remains unchanged for now. 

New guidance from the state requiring face coverings even when exercising indoors will require additional consideration regarding guidance for indoor activities. 

“These currently proposed dates by the OSAA allow for local school control regarding fall practice schedules while enabling them to focus on their primary objective of reopening to students,” said Weber. “Decisions schools are making regarding their instructional models — whether it be on‐site, hybrid or distance learning — are still being discussed locally.”

That being said, the dates currently in place for the start of practices and contests — and an individual school’s ability to participate — could be impacted by its instructional model, along with any new health metrics set forth by the Governor’s office and OHA. 

“Additional guidance for fall contest protocols, including multi‐team events, spectator policies and regional scheduling considerations will be forthcoming,” said Weber. “The OSAA Executive Board understands that if fall end dates are not extended, then contest limitations, playoff structures and championship events will need to be altered.” 

No definitive date has been established by the state for a review of the prohibition of football. However, based on strategies provided by the OSAA Football Contingency Group, it would be necessary for any football restrictions be lifted by Sept. 28 in order to establish a modified regular season this fall.

“Should fall activities not be held in the fall, the OSAA Executive Board is committed to working with its contingency groups to exhaust all options for these activities, including shifting, condensing or stacking seasons like neighboring Washington and California,” said Weber. “The fundamental objective would be in providing participation opportunities for students. 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.”

Music, Speech and Debate: 

Music, Speech and Debate contingency groups will begin meeting in late July or early August to focus on competition elements and considerations for the coming year. Band, orchestra and choir resources, including guidance from the NFHS for ways to return to in‐person instruction safely, can be found on the OSAA COVID‐19 page.

OSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) Recommendations 

The OSAA Executive Board adopted two recommendations from the OSAA SMAC. Both recommendations are in regard to student safety and the deconditioning of students during the pandemic.

The first change prohibits multiple practice sessions on the same day for the 2020‐21 school year.  

In addition, no single-practice session can be longer than three hours, including warm‐up and cool-down periods. On days with a single practice session, students are limited to a maximum of one hour of weight training either before or after practice but not both.

For OSAA updates, visit http://www.osaa.org/coronavirus.

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