Oregon is keeping the high school sports dream alive, but it won’t start a reshuffled season schedule until February.
The Oregon School Activities Association met Monday, Dec. 7, and set a revised three-season schedule. Practices for cross country, soccer, volleyball and football could start in February, with competitions starting the first week of March.
The sports are still subject to state coronavirus rules though, which would prohibit football everywhere and volleyball in most counties right now.
Student athletes who had been hoping to start Dec. 28 under OSAA’s August plan are disappointed, but the new schedule still maintains all sports. The three distinct seasons will be shorter, but multisport athletes will not be forced to choose from overlapping sports seasons.
The governing body for Oregon high school sports wanted to provide as many opportunities for as many students as possible, OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber said.
The new schedule’s seasons will be about six weeks each, with some overlap. OSAA and school officials are still working out what state championships might look like.
Weber is keenly aware of parents’ and students’ desires to resume sports, but OSAA had little room to maneuver under Gov. Kate Brown’s coronavirus emergency orders and state framework. Indoor sports and recreation, including K-12 sports, are prohibited in counties with an extreme risk level of COVID-19 spread. Currently 25 counties are in the extreme category.
Outdoor sports are possible with capacity limits and health and safety precautions. Under the current coronavirus rules, though, football is still prohibited because it is considered full contact.
The indoor winter sports of swimming, wrestling and basketball have been moved to May, giving counties more time to lower coronavirus case counts. Wrestling and basketball are also considered full contact sports.
OSAA has left open its allowance for “out of season” practices and competitions. Students and coaches can participate in any activity allowable under the guidelines from the governor, the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education.
OSAA’s plan contains a lot of hopeful thinking. For schools to offer some sports, coronavirus case rates need to go down and stay down. The outdoor sports will likely face weather challenges, and the six-week seasons leave little room for makeup games for weather disruptions or disease outbreaks.
As of Monday, NFHS showed more than 30 states modifying their winter sports schedules.
OSAA Executive Board President Heidi Sipe said the board looked at what other states were doing for ideas but their options were limited by Brown’s order.
Sipe, the Umatilla School District superintendent, praised the association’s efforts to weigh the needs of students and the perspectives of school officials from a range of district sizes and locations.
She said she was inspired by the dedication of coaches who are finding new and creative ways to reach out to students and keep them active.
Like most school leaders, Sipe considers extracurricular activities a vital component in students’ social growth and academic success.
“It’s hard,” said Sipe, emotion strong in her voice. “I like to see them busy and active and engaged. I am counting down the days until I can get kids back in our schools and back on our fields.”