Ohio’s fall sports teams — non-contact, contact and everything in between — were given the go-ahead by the Ohio High School Athletic Association to start official team practices today.
It’s a position the OHSAA has reaffirmed numerous times in the last week alone, most recently in Friday’s administrator update sent to member schools’ superintendents, principals and athletic directors.
“It is important to keep athletic activity moving forward,” Dan Leffingwell, president of the OHSAA Board of Directors and superintendent of the Noble Local Schools in Sarahsville, said in the update. “And with that, we believe our member schools provide our student‐athletes with the safest possible environment to return to play and that our school programs are the best avenue to help students learn lifelong lessons and provide social, emotional and physical benefits that other programs cannot. Moving forward allows those students to continue to be engaged with their school coaches and teammates. Membership data also supports this decision.
“If we were to delay, our students will find opportunities to compete in sports through non‐school programs that may not be focused on safety and are not education‐based,” Leffingwell added. “Should data on COVID‐19 change and/or the Governor’s Office makes changes to our plan, we have flexibility that would allow us to look at implementing other models for our seasons.”
It’s good news for teams in Delaware County, where the virus seems to be under control to some extent. The county’s seen 1,168 cases, 76 hospitalizations and 18 deaths according to Friday’s metrics posted by the Ohio Department of Health at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
The numbers paint a different picture across other parts of the state, though. Neighboring Franklin County, for example, had 16,842 cases, 2,121 hospitalizations and 511 deaths as of Friday’s update.
Its health department recommended starting school online and suspending extracurricular activities until further notice.
Locally, Reynoldsburg, Bexley and Westerville all halted football activities due to positive coronavirus tests in the last week and Toledo Public Schools announced Friday that fall sports will be cancelled for teams competing in the Toledo City Athletic League. That district will discus plans for the 2020-21 winter season on Oct. 1.
Other districts have done the same.
The point is, teams which have the go ahead from the school district and/or local health department, can practice starting today, and the OHSAA plans to have fall seasons start on time in all sports. Golf is slated to get underway Aug. 5, girls tennis is set for an Aug. 7 start, volleyball is on track to start Aug. 21, boys and girls soccer and field hockey have a target start date of Aug. 21 and football and cross country are slated to start their seasons the week of Aug. 24.
That is, unless Gov. Mike DeWine and local health departments step in between now and then.
If they do, and contact sports are not approved for school vs. school competition by Friday, Sept. 4, fall contact sports and remaining winter and spring sports will move to a condensed schedule that will take place between mid-December and the end of June.