In a memo to its member schools on Wednesday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association reaffirmed its position that the upcoming winter sports seasons will begin as previously scheduled. While individual school districts can pause sports at any time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the OHSAA does not intend to alter the statewide season dates.
The decision came after discussions with the governor’s office, the OHSAA Board of Directors, OHSAA staff and many school administrators, along with the results of a recent survey of OHSAA member school administrators. Of 1,464 survey responses, 826 respondents (56 percent) voted to begin winter sports as previously scheduled.
“Though we are seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases in Ohio, the majority of our member schools want the opportunity to move forward with winter sports as planned,” said OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute. “As always, the decision to play sports is a local school decision and there will certainly be schools that pause sports for periods of time in the months to come, but if the majority of our schools want to move forward, then we want to provide that opportunity. As we have said previously, our member schools provide our student-athletes with the safest possible environment to participate. If we were to delay, students would find opportunities to compete in sports through non-school programs that may not be focused on safety and are not education-based.”
The survey results showed 33 percent of school administrators favored delaying winter sports until early January, and 11 percent voted to delay winter sports indefinitely until statewide COVID-19 conditions improve.
Noting the governor’s curfew order
As it relates to school sports, the governor’s 10 p.m. Ohio curfew order does not mean that teams and fans must be home from their competitions by 10 p.m., but venues must be vacated by 10 p.m. The OHSAA encourages schools and conferences to alter start times, if needed, so that competitions end in time to close the facility by 10 p.m.
COVID-19 general guidance
All mandates in the Ohio Department of Health Director’s Sports Order must continue to be followed for winter sports. Here is a link to the health director’s sports order: https://bit.ly/2RWa1jh. In addition, here is a link to the Health Department’s Responsible RestartOhio guidance document for sports: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/Youth-Collegiate-Amateur-Club-Pro-Sports.pdf, and here is a link to the ODH’s Responsible RestartOhio guidance document for sports venues: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/Sports-Venues.pdf.
It is especially important that requirements for facial coverings, social distancing and frequent hand washing be followed and that facility hosts disinfect and clean competition and high contact areas frequently. Also note that the order has a limit on spectator capacity, which is the lesser of 15 percent of fixed, permanent seats or 300.
Winter sports requirements
The OHSAA staff has developed sport-specific requirements, recommendations and modifications for schools when conducting interscholastic competition in winter sports. Links to the sport-specific requirements, recommendations and modifications for winter sports are available here:
* Basketball: http://bit.ly/BKRecs
* Bowling: http://bit.ly/BORecs
* Gymnastics: http://bit.ly/GYMRecs
* Ice Hockey: http://bit.ly/IHRecs
* Swimming & Diving: http://bit.ly/SDRecs
* Wrestling: http://bit.ly/WRRecs
Submitted by Tim Stried, director of communications, Ohio High School Athletic Association.