The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has presented the OHSAA with a myriad of challenges. The Executive Director’s Office, with support from its Board of Directors and 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, offer a Return to Play document as recommendations on how our member schools can consider approaching the many components of “opening up” sports with the objective of commencing the fall sports seasons on August 1, 2020.
The OHSAA 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. We encourage you to especially pay attention to the early pages of the document closely since they indicate that many of the recommendations can ONLY be utilized if mandates from the Ohio Department of Health Director’s Order are modified.
The recommendations within the Return to Play document for the resumption of varsity, non-varsity and 7th-8th grade interscholastic athletic seasons and participation opportunities have been made with the health, safety and well-being of all student-athletes in mind.
The risk of coronavirus transmission will still be present to some degree as interscholastic athletics activities begin in August and will continue until there is a widely available vaccine or therapeutic care, possibly through the 2020-21 school year. While the science about COVID-19 is evolving, it will be important to remain vigilant and nimble to respond to new developments.
Students and their families, along with school personnel, must recognize these risks and implement best practices to reasonably mitigate these risks. Participation in school activities is voluntary and every individual will need to evaluate the risk versus the benefits of athletics participation. Those immunocompromised students and staff, or those who live with family members with elevated health concerns, should evaluate associated risks of participation and may choose not to participate.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, and also may be produced when yelling, cheering, singing and spitting. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Risk mitigation strategies should be aimed at reducing the likelihood of a person being exposed to respiratory droplets coming from another person. Every school is different, and every athletics activity is different. Certain mitigation strategies may be feasible in one school or for one activity, but not another.
Schools should attempt to significantly mitigate exposures by:
•Maintaining physical distancing while not on the field or court of play;
•Requiring face coverings while not on the field or court of play;
•Reducing or greatly eliminating unnecessary travel;
•Reducing or eliminating sharing of common equipment, and
•Reducing or eliminating contact frequency with student-athletes from schools and non-interscholastic programs outside of each school’s league/conference or normal competition sphere.
The OHSAA understands that the physical and mental benefits of participation in education-based interscholastic athletics are numerous and are heightened even more during this pandemic. Students who participate learn life lessons in an environment that cannot be duplicated. Academic achievement, the development of leadership and social skills as well as the mental health benefits are known to be greatly enhanced in students who participate in our programs compared to those who do not. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has already resulted in thousands of our students missing out on these life-shaping educational experiences over the past several months, and we certainly hope we can return to some type of normalcy as it relates to interscholastic athletics soon. With that being said, in order for interscholastic athletics to occur, we all need to follow the protocols that have been put in place.
OHSAA suspending scrimmages for contact sports
It was revealed on Tuesday, in a letter from the OHSAA sent to school administrators, that school v. school scrimmages are suspended for the contact sports of football, soccer and field hockey. They said in the letter they do not anticipate that changing anytime soon, with the possibility remaining that no scrimmages will be permitted before the regular season gets underway.
Scrimmages will be permitted for the low/non-contact sports of golf, girls tennis and volleyball.