Students, families, coaches and the community wait for the resumption of middle and high school sports and other student activities, cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sports

Team competition at Clatskanie Middle/High School and at Rainier Jr/Sr. High School has been postponed due to the current pandemic.

In the following conversation with Clatskanie Middle/High School Athletic Director Ryan Tompkins, and Rainier Jr/Sr High School Principal and Athletic Director Graden Blue, The Chief seeks insight into how the students are coping and what comes next.

The Chief: Given the setbacks, increasing COVID-19 cases in Columbia County, what do you see happening with the current conditioning options for the students now and what impact do you see for the upcoming actual competitions in the New Year?

Ryan Tompkins: Our Season 1 activities are paired to our school instruction model. As long as we offer LII (limited in-person instruction) we plan to continue to offer conditioning/skill-building options. Currently we have 30-40 students a day in our building, on a limited basis, to receive additional support and/or access.

As far as competition goes, the OSAA has set December 7th as their deadline to determine what winter sports competition will look like. Until then, we are waiting optimistically.

The Chief: From your vantage point and contact with the students, how are they coping with this significant change and not being able to attend regular practices and regular competition with other school teams?

Tompkins: I believe the old-adage is true, you don’t truly appreciate something until it’s gone. It has been a difficult 8 months for students/adults alike in our district. The limited interactions we have had this fall, have been cherished. The Season 1 activities have been very well attended by students, and there has been nothing but positives that have come out of them.

The Chief: What specifically are you advising the coaches in helping guide them to working as best they can through this and how they can help their student athletes deal with the current situation and the unknowns ahead?

Tompkins: From day one, we’ve tried to impress upon the coaches how important their role is through these times. Student Engagement is our number one priority: Keeping kids connected to their school community. Aside from the athletic side of things, by checking in with their athletes, encouraging them in their coursework, asking them about their day… coaches have an opportunity to make a real difference.

The Chief: Without the middle/high school regular practices and games and other student activities, what has been the social aspect of not having the students working together, and gaining the learning abilities offered in such settings?

Tompkins: Many things are occurring, just on a very limited basis and in different forms. Our leadership class has created “Virtual Spirit Week” during our traditional “Homecoming Week”, our Drama class is doing a Zoom production of “Alice in Wonderland”, we held a virtual “Veteran’s Day Assembly." All of these are being done to help create collaborative and team working opportunities for students. The hardest part is knowing that we aren’t reaching every student and trying to find opportunities where every student can build social connections.

The Chief: From your insight, what has been the overall impact in our community as a whole by not having middle/high school sports and other student activities?

Tompkins: Athletics play a huge role in keeping our students physically active and helps bring the Clatskanie community together. There has definitely been a void. As a parent of three grade-school children, my Wife and I routinely talk about finding ways to get our kids active and out of the house. Athletics has been that activity for our family (and many others) and without it, it’s been a challenge.

As for the community, many people are in relative isolation. Athletic events creates an opportunity for people to come together and interact, outside of the grocery store, those opportunities are seemingly few and far between. Athletics (like clubs and the performing arts) also create a pathway for our community to encourage/engage with our students. From grandparents who don’t miss a single second of a basketball game to younger siblings running around emulating the “Varsity Star,” we look forward to the day where we can safely continue in these community events.

The Chief: Feel free to add any other comments you might have.

Tompkins: We recently received a grant from the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) for two free Pixellot LiveStream cameras. These cameras have been installed in the gym and the football field. When competition returns, all events at those two venues will be automatically be streamed live online at nfhsnetwork.com.

The Chief: Given the setbacks, increasing COVID-19 cases in Columbia County, what do you see happening with the current conditioning options for the students now and what impact do you see for the upcoming actual competitions in the New Year?

Graden Blue: We will follow the OHA, OSAA and ODE guidelines to prepare for the opportunity to return to standard practices and competitions. By one sport not following the guidelines puts all sports in jeopardy. No one wants the responsibility of placing those restrictions on theirs or other sports. The fact that we have multiple individuals participating in more than one sport simply means that they need to protect them all.

The Chief: From your vantage point and contact with the students, how are they coping with this significant change and not being able to attend regular practices and regular competition with other school teams?

Blue: This has been tough on students, coaches and the community. So the students welcome the opportunity to get together in any form of practice. Social interaction is an integral part of sports, by allowing practice sessions to begin with conditioning and training only has been a big step forward for them. When the time is right it will be expanded for a more encompassing experience.

The Chief: What specifically are you advising the coaches to help guide them in working as best they can through this and how they can help their student athletes deal with the current situation and the unknowns ahead?

Blue: Coaches naturally touch base with their athletes often and these circumstances are no different. They do check in’s with them so that they will be ready if actual seasons are allowed to happen. Coaches remind their athlete’s that they need to maintain attendance and grades to be ready academically to compete.

The Chief: Without the high school regular practices and games and other student activities, what has been the social aspect of not having the students working together, and gaining the learning abilities offered in such settings?

Blue: A good program is always looking for opportunities for team building whether they are doing practices or not. Coaches spend a lot of time outside their regular season connecting with their athletes. Under the current OSSA guidelines they are outside their season, but are using it as a conditioning season of preparation.

The Chief: From your insight, what has been the overall impact in our community as a whole by not having regular middle/high school sports and other student activities?

Blue: Athletics and activities is the venue that brings students and community together, both groups are suffering the loss of not being able to gather. Both groups recognize that the only opportunity for any normalcy to return requires sacrifice and a determination to knock this down. By adhering to the guidelines allows a greater chance for a return to practices and competition as we once knew it.

The Chief: Feel free to add any other comments you might have.

Blue: Athletics and Activities

Athletics continues to remain in Season 1 utilizing conditioning and training as their practice opportunities. All sports are allowed to participate during this season; however there are greater restrictions for contact sports. With the adjustment to season schedules we will see a reduction in competitions and the number of weeks in a season.

  • Season 2 is scheduled to begin December 28 with basketball, wrestling and swimming. Pool may not be available to allow swimming to happen, basketball and wrestling are both considered contact sports and may not happen unless metric’s are lifted.
  • Season 3 will start February 22 with cross-country, volleyball, soccer, cheer and football. Again football and cheer are considered a contact sport and would require a change in the metrics to allow them to compete or hold normal practices.
  • Season 4 starts March 19 with track and field, softball and baseball.

Student sports fees will not be required until such time as a sport enters into their competitive season. Updates will be made available as new information is received.

Music competitions are scheduled to start in April and May. Metrics again could affect this schedule.

Follow this developing story here online and in the Friday print editions of The Chief.

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