The Ohio High School Athletic Association has extended its no-contact period and adjusted the amount of time it will allow in-person instruction in July, provided current restrictions on group gatherings are lifted.
The OHSAA announced in a memo sent to schools on Thursday that its no-contact period would extend through May 31. The period, which was initially put in place in mid-March, was set to expire on Friday.
The move came the same day Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton issued an order for all school building and facilities to be closed through June 30. The order, which is one of many recent similar issued by the state designed to limit large group gatherings and slow the spread of COVID-19, includes outdoor facilities like athletic fields.
OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass said in a memo the association will extend its no-contact period through June 30 in late May if the state health department doesn’t change its order.
“Though the current order for shutting school facilities is in place through June 30, we felt there would be a chance this could be pulled back to an earlier date,” Snodgrass said. “Putting the no-contact period in place until June 1 would provide flexibility in the event it would be.”
The no-contact period prohibits coaches and athletes from meeting in person for workouts or any other kind of instruction. The OHSAA has repeatedly encouraged coaches to maintain electronic communication with players.
“While this limits the ability for school coaches to directly coach their student-athletes and will also handcuff them from coaching them in non-school programs, it is a result of current restrictions and orders and puts all programs on the same level playing field,” Snodgrass said in the memo.
“This regulation was implemented long before modern methods of communication and, while we have received many questions on what coaches can or cannot do as a result of Zoom meeting, text messages, etc., we have provided guidance that we would ask you to distribute to all your coaches.
“The intent of this regulation was to prohibit direct contact with students, not electronic methods.”
Extending the no-contact period through the entirety of June was disrupt normal plans for most teams. Many teams — especially fall sports squads — ramp up their preseason preparations when summer vacations start in June.
Aside from workouts and weight training programs, many teams have practice-like camp days or attend multi-team summer leagues and camps. The month is particularly popular for basketball teams; one-day shootouts and multiple-day summer leagues are commonplace across the state.
The OHSAA allows teams in most sports 10 summer coaching days, in which coaches can instruct players. That’s in addition to any weight training, conditioning or open gyms, which coaches can supervise but not offer sport-related instruction.
Since the no-contact period will likely be extended through June 30, the OHSAA is adjusting its 10-day allotment. Teams will be allowed unlimited practice from July 1 to August 31.
“Due to the cancellation of spring sports and the shortened tournament season, we heard from schools that felt they could monitor it appropriately and that this adjustment would also provide flexibility to coaches especially in light of the unknown ‘summer schedules,’” Snodgrass said. “We realize this can be challenging for multiple sport athletes but felt that schools could oversee this during this unprecedented time.”
Snodgrass also said the association is looking at issues with fall sports schedules.
“There are many unknowns,” Snodgrass said. “It is premature to release any of the many plans we have and are currently working on. However, every potential scenario is being discussed just in case so we can be prepared. Whether fall sports are delayed, played without fans, shortened — hopefully none of those — but all scenarios are being worked on just to be prepared.”
The OHSAA’s memo also encouraged coaches and student athletes to follow social distancing guidelines in regards to competing with non-school programs, which the association does not regulate.
“We are not able to restrict students’ competing with non-interscholastic teams and/or programs,” the OHSAA said in the memo. “However, the Governor’s stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines do apply to these non-interscholastic programs and teams. We recommend that you keep up to date with the Governor’s mandates and work with your non-interscholastic organization to find out when your student athlete can begin competition.”