The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced on Wednesday winter sports seasons will go forward as planned. A recent membership survey showed 56 percent of administrators and athletic directors want to proceed on schedule while 44 percent wanted to delay.
In light of the governor’s 21-day curfew order issued earlier this week, the OHSAA said in a memo sent to member schools gyms and athletic venues need to be vacated by 10 p.m. The new curfew starts Nov. 19th.
Girls basketball regular season can start Friday while boys basketball can start Wednesday. Bowling teams were allowed to begin competition on Nov. 13. Wrestling can begin competition on Dec. 3.
The OHSAA said the curfew order does not mean schools must be home from their competitions strictly at 10, but game gyms/venues need to be vacated by 10, followed by transportation back home. The association said consideration by schools and leagues should be given to move starting times for contests earlier.
The OHSAA says the new curfew order does mean it is imperative that administrators work with student-athletes and coaches to emphasize that, once the contest ends or schools return from road trips, everyone should go home and not congregate at someone’s house or a local restaurant. Those types of gatherings have proven to help spread the virus and may play a major role in pausing a school’s season.
There were a total of 1,464 votes in the member survey about winter sports season. Fifty-six percent wanted to start as planned, 33 percent wanted to suspend with defined schedule to start in January and 11 percent favored suspending all winter contests immediately and begin when/if conditions change.
The OHSAA reminded member schools existing requirements for facial coverings, social distancing and frequent hand washing must be followed and schools must disinfect and clean competition and high contact areas frequently. The OHSAA also noted the Ohio Department of Health order limiting crowd size in gymnasiums to 15 percent of a complex’s capacity with a maximum of 300 people is still in effect.
The OHSAA also announced it has received additional guidance from the Ohio Department of Health on various winter indoor sports concerns.
First, contest participants (athletes waiting to play and athletes completing play, plus cheerleaders, pep band members, etc.) do not count toward a sports venue’s allowable number of spectators under Ohio’s Sports Order or any variance that has been approved for your facility.
However, school administrators are cautioned to use good judgement in this area. If, for example, auxiliary areas are available for athletes waiting to play or having completed play, including cheerleaders, pep band members, etc., consider placing these students in that area.
No matter where these students are placed, six-feet social distancing mandates must be followed, and facial coverings are required. Consideration should also be given to sending freshman, junior varsity and/or varsity teams on separate transportation to away contests and having those groups depart after their specific contests are completed.
Secondly, cheerleaders and pep band members are considered to be participants in the sports event and consequently subject to the Sports Order and guidance.
As in fall, the OHSAA emphasized the final decision on playing sports rests with individual school districts.
Though stay-at-home orders issued in Franklin, Cuyahoga and Montgomery Counties on Wednesday forced some school districts in those areas to postpone winter sports activities. Schools in those areas have postponed winter athletics until mid-December or early January.
Reach Portsmouth Daily Times sports editor Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports.