Oregon fall sports seasons will start in late February
Coronavirus concerns in Oregon have placed Friday night lights on hold until spring.
Traditional fall sports and activities will be moved between the winter and spring sports seasons, the Oregon School Activities Association announced Wednesday.
OSAA is also waiving out-of-season coaching rules so that schools can offer this fall any activities they want, including canceled spring sports, within state and health authority coronavirus rules.
Schools can hold conditioning, practices and interscholastic competitions as long as local conditions permit.
The OSAA’s new three-season calendar allows multi-sport athletes to compete, with only the opening practice period overlapping the previous season. Traditionally fall sports practices will start Feb. 22, and the season will run from March until early May.
Umatilla High School junior Taylor Durfey said it would be “really weird” to play soccer in the spring, but she’s not complaining.
“I’d much rather do that than not play at all,” she said.
Spring sports will open practices April 19, and the season will run through June 27.
The 7-week regular seasons do not overlap so that students and schools don’t have to choose between sports, OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber said.
“We wanted to provide as many opportunities for kids to get back to participate as soon as possible,” Weber said. “We think this provides the best opportunity to maximize kids participating later in the year.”
Some school districts, such as Corvallis and Beaverton, had already announced that they were putting fall activities on hold while students were not in school buildings.
At least 31 states have altered their sports seasons, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Some states are also considering allowing sports where physical distancing is possible even if schools are not holding in-person classes, the federation said.
California has put its fall sports on hold until at least December, and Washington has divided its sports up into four shorter seasons and moved football to the spring.
Umatilla High School quarterback Ryan Lorence, a senior, has been playing football since fourth grade. The thought of not playing this year was “mind blowing.”
“You hear about your senior season your whole life and how much fun it is,” he said.
Umatilla running back Eric Hoyos-Diaz is also a senior and plans to play college ball. For him, this season is crucial for showcasing his talents.
He said he doesn’t care much when they play but he would have been “bummed out” if rescheduling had made him miss his track season.
The rules also affect activities such as band, speech and drama.
Rob McIntyre, a band director in Umatilla County’s Athena-Weston School District, said his student musicians have had to give up all their typical summer performances. He said the additional physical distancing requirements right now for blowing instruments makes it nearly impossible to have any sort of indoor practice.
For student athletes in Umatilla County, a hotspot of COVID-19 cases in Oregon, moving fall sports offers a second chance. Increasing COVID-19 cases placed Umatilla last week back into the baseline phase of Gov. Kate Brown’s reopening plan, meaning no practices or sports at all.
“It’s frustrating,” said Scott Rogers, an Athena-Weston School Board member. “The extracurricular activities are such a valuable part of the student experience.”
Rural communities often have little in the way of parks and rec programs for young people, said Rogers, OSBA Board secretary-treasurer.
“If it’s not sports through their school, they don’t get to participate,” he said.
Umatilla School District Superintendent Heidi Sipe, a devout believer in the value of extracurricular activities, said she is hopeful the community can bring down its infection rate to restore activities.
“We will do all we can to restore what we can for students,” said Sipe, OSAA Executive Board president. “I know that does not lessen their feelings of loss at this time.”
Keeping the seasons separate also helps smaller school districts field teams. If students have to pick between seasonal sports, some schools don’t have enough athletes to field teams.
Finn Irvine, a sophomore at Athena-Weston’s Weston-McEwen High School, plays offensive and defensive line in the fall and competes in the track and field throwing events in the spring.
Irvine said if he had to choose, he would take football. He said most of the school’s other throwing event competitors are football players too.
Irvine said he misses the long summer football practices.
“I’d rather be out there doing them than sitting at home,” he said.
- Jake Arnold, OSBA