The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) Executive Board has pushed the season start date for school sports to February and swap seasons around.
The OSAA Executive Board said in a release issued Monday afternoon, Dec. 7 that it was hopeful that the state’s landscape was going to improve when it adopted the current calendar back in August, but that has not proven to be the case as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, county risk level metrics have changed and restrictions on prohibited activities have not been lifted by the Governor’s Office and Oregon Health Authority (OHA).
“Today’s decision by the Executive Board is another reminder of the impact the pandemic has had on Oregon students and schools,” OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber said. “While disappointed that we need to adjust our original schedule, we believe that keeping three distinct seasons, albeit in shortened seasons, maintains potential opportunities for all students moving forward.”
Weber said the OSAA Board members made it clear during with comments during the meeting that the OSAA and its member schools are bound by the rules, regulations, and guidance set forth by the Governor’s Office and the OHA. Neither the OSAA Executive Board nor the OSAA Executive Director are able to waive state mandates or provide exceptions for certain activities or counties in the state.
Clatskanie Middle/High School Athletic Director Ryan Tompkins said the OSAA announcement is bitter sweet.
“I wish we could flip a switch and everything go back to normal, but things are not trending in that direction." Tompkins said. "I’m glad they decided against cancelling winter sports, and leave the door open for a shortened season in May/June. Currently, the OHA does not permit contact sports including football, wrestling, basketball and contact cheer."
The OSAA staff continues to be in contact with the Governor’s Office, OHA and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to advocate for a safe return to in-person learning and high school activities.
In the revised calendar also adopted on Dec. 7, Fall sports are moved to Season 2 and will begin in February with multiple activities permitted by state guidance. This allows time for case counts to decrease in the new year and for counties to subsequently move out of the Extreme Risk category.
Cross country and soccer, as outdoor sports, are permitted by the governor’s office and OHA in all counties. As an indoor activity, volleyball is tied to the governor’s County Risk Level Guidance and only allowed in those counties deemed as lower, moderate, or high risk.
Full contact football remains on the governor’s prohibited list of activities at this time. Discussions around possibly moving Football later in the year were not supported at this time due to concerns expressed by the OSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) regarding the impact that a later contact football season would require modifications to the Fall 2021 football season.
Season 3 features the traditional Spring activities (Baseball, Softball, Golf, Tennis and Track and Field), all of which are permitted by state guidance as outdoor activities. These will begin April 5 and extend into the third week in May.
The sports calendar wraps up with Season 4 and traditional winter sports (swimming, basketball and wrestling) beginning in mid-May and extending into late June. The shift of wrestling and basketball to the end of the calendar provides the most runway for their prohibition to be lifted by the state. The OSAA said in the statement it has been given no indication that a change will be made in this designation but remains hopeful that a change could occur prior to Season 4. Swimming is currently allowed outdoors for all counties and indoors for those counties not in the Extreme Risk metric.
The activities schedule was revised to allow more time for school buildings to be accessible to their programs. Activities like Choir and Band/Orchestra have been pushed back to the end of the school year to provide their programs the opportunity to rehearse in person if school district policy allows. Cheerleading and Dance/Drill culminating weeks have also been adjusted to allow more time for facilities to open or have weather improve enough to move outdoors.
The OSAA Executive Board also voted to extend Season 1 through February 21, 2021 to allow training, workouts and even competitions to occur in those areas of the state that are allowed per the governor’s office, OHA guidance, and local school district policy. The Board plans to revisit participation limitations for all seasons, out-of-season coaching policies for Season 2, 3, and 4, and the need for further decisions as a result of updated state guidance or changing risk level metrics at upcoming work sessions.