On the day the seasons for high school sports traditionally held in the fall were set to resume, the Oregon School Activities Association cleared the way for soccer, cross country and some volleyball — while punting on football, basketball and wrestling.
The OSAA gave the green light to soccer and cross country in all counties, the association announced Monday, with practices set to kick off Feb. 22 and contests starting March 1.
Volleyball may move forward on the same timeline for any county not in the “extreme risk” of coronavirus transmission according to the governor’s latest matrix.
Culminating week ideas for those three sports are still a work in progress.
“The current restrictions of gathering size limits and the maximum number of schools (two) create major hurdles to run any event,” the OSAA acknowledged in a tweet.
Clackamas County is currently in the “extreme risk” category — along with much of the most populated areas in the state — but is very close to reaching the threshold for being downgraded if recent trends continue.
The OSAA, a nonprofit which regulates high school athletics and other competitive activities, does not really hold the decision-making authority in these cases, but takes its cue from Governor Kate Brown, the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education.
It has no ability to permit athletic competition — full-contact or otherwise — without the blessing of the state. The OSAA and its executive board, on the other hand, has been striving to advocate on behalf of student-athletes and other extracurricular programs in the midst of the pandemic.
“It important to be able to be in a position to pivot if necessary as things continually change from those making decisions above us,” OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber said. “The advocacy doesn’t end until we have all activities available for students to participate in.”
OSAA leadership plans to meet again in the coming weeks and could issue new guidance on full-contact sports like basketball and wrestling — which are traditionally held indoors, where the risk of transmission is known to be much higher — and football.
“We expect a change to the contact sport guidance by the Oregon Health Authority and Governor’s office in the upcoming days” – Peter Weber
The OSAA is also contemplating alternatives to traditional 11-on-11 tackle football, including 7-on-7 flag football with a (possibly virtual) combine for linemen.
“I think we all know going in that not a single one of these activities is going to replace contact football. We get it,” OSAA assistant executive director Brad Garrett said. “But at the same time, we are leveraging every possible opportunity to find opportunities to produce activities that kids and coaches can do together under the current guidelines.”
The board’s next meeting on Feb. 17 will tackle the issue of culminating weeks for soccer, cross country and volleyball. The OSAA also hopes to have more guidance from the state about contact sports at that time.
On Twitter, Canby High School football coach Jimmy Joyce posted his reaction accompanied by a “glass half full” gif.
“I am choosing to look at today’s news — or lack of news — regarding football in Oregon as a positive,” he wrote. [The OSAA] said new guidance is coming! I hope so. These kids need sports but they also need answers!”
Like many restaurants and bars, Canby High School athletics moved outdoors this winter, with non-mandatory workouts being hosted for sports such as football, wrestling, track and cross country — including an open-air weight room.