COLUMBUS – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that he will sign a new Ohio Department of Health order that permits contact sports, including the fall sports of field hockey, soccer and football, to move forward with games against other schools. The Governor confirmed support for Ohio’s coaches to inspire their student-athletes to continue following safety precautions so that all sports can be played.
Field hockey, soccer and football now join the OHSAA’s previously approved fall sports of girls and boys golf, girls tennis, girls volleyball, and girls and boys cross country. With the majority of high schools in Ohio wanting to play sports this fall, the Ohio High School Athletic Association has been working with the Governor’s Office and the Ohio Department of Health toward a new health order that contains modifications from previous orders.
“I hope that the desire to have a season will inspire our young people, our athletes, our student-athletes, 24/7 to be as careful as they can,” said Governor DeWine during his press conference Tuesday. “I hope also that our coaches will use this an opportunity to focus on helping these young people understand what really is at stake. If they are going to be able to play, that they are going to have to do everything they can to keep COVID out of their team.”
“The OHSAA is moving forward because we want kids to have an opportunity to participate, and the Governor’s Office is providing that opportunity and a chance,” said Bob Goldring, OHSAA Interim Executive Director. “So for that we are most appreciative. It’s important to remember that our student-athletes have been practicing and training with others for weeks and even months, and it has gone well. So, we believe they deserve the chance to move forward, and that the high school space is also different than the collegiate space.”
The OHSAA staff has developed sport-specific modifications and recommendations for schools when conducting interscholastic competition. Links to these sport-specific documents were originally included in the July 22 memo when we released the Return to Play Recommendations document. Links to updated sport-specific requirements, modifications and recommendations are posted at: https://ohsaa.org/Home/OHSAA-COVID-19-Correspondence
“COVID-19 certainly has created a risk factor, and that is something on which each family has to decide for their student, and each local school district has to make decisions on moving forward based on all the information they have been presented,” Goldring continued. “But we also believe our student-athletes, coaches and school administrators – in education-based programs – are suited to be the best advocates for safety, strongly promoting and following mandates and recommendations to wear facial coverings, stay socially distanced and so forth. Our coaches, especially, are role models to so many of our student-athletes. So hopefully our student-athletes will follow their lead and guidance, especially when they talk to students about what to consider away from school.”
“The driving force that will inspire our young men, our young women, to make the right decisions in their lives 24/7 that will inspire them to have the best chance they can to play their sport,” DeWine continued. “To the coaches, you, in a normal year, inspire, you mentor, you instruct, you instill discipline and self-discipline in your student-athletes. For all of that, we are very grateful for what you do. You make a lot of sacrifices, work long hours and you inspire our kids. We thank you very much for that. But this year, it’s going to take more. It’s going to be inspiring them in regards to the goal of keeping COVID out of their team.”
As Governor DeWine also noted, the Governor’s Office and Department of Health are close to finalizing a new Health Director’s Order. With that comes two separate mandates and recommended best practices documents for schools to follow for competitions, and the OHSAA could issue consequences for the violation of these requirements as prescribed in Bylaw 11, Penalties. The mandates and recommended best practices are related to many of the same mandates and protocols already in place for many other sectors as they relate to symptom assessments; facial coverings; social distancing; cleaning and sanitizing, and confirmed COVID-19 cases/exposure to the virus. The final versions of those two documents will be sent to schools on Wednesday.
The Governor understands that interscholastic sports are different than other forms of competition because we are education-based and are able to implement best safety practices and have structure in place for dealing with COVID-19 restrictions. So, if we want our students to have the privilege of competing in interscholastic athletics, it’s going to be up to all of us to make sure all mandates and protocols are being followed. We all need to be diligent and be disciplined.
Capacity Limitations/Students Dressing for Contests Limitations/Bands Restrictions
Spectator capacity for our events will be limited, with the specific details to be listed in the guidance pieces. As Governor DeWine mentioned today, an emphasis will be on allowing families and loved ones to see students participate. In addition, OHSAA requirements, based on guidance from the Governor’s Office, is for schools to limit the number of players dressing for contests. The limits are 60 in football; 22 in soccer and field hockey, and 15 in volleyball. In addition, the OHSAA, based on guidance from the Governor’s Office, is limiting marching and/or pep bands to performing only at home contests.
Questions and Answers on Why Are We Moving Forward
Originally developed as part of the July 31 Administrator Update when the OHSAA affirmed its position of starting our practices as planned, the OHSAA has updated a series of questions and answers related to why we are moving forward with our seasons. All scenarios have been discussed and, in making its decision, the OHSAA has had great collaboration with the Governor’s Office; Ohio Department of Health; the National Federation of State High School Associations; our colleagues at other state high school athletics/activities associations; members of the OHSAA’s Joint Advisory Committee on Sports Medicine, and members of the Governor’s Sports League Advisory Group. A series of questions and answers are posted at: https://ohsaaweb.blob.core.windows.net/files/Sports/2020/OHSAAReturnToPlayQA.pdf
Clarity on “Spring Seasons”
As Governor DeWine noted today, the OHSAA is prepared to remove the impediments in our bylaws and regulations that would otherwise preclude schools from playing fall sports in the spring. In other words, schools that have opted out of fall sports participation due to the pandemic – meaning the school has not participated in fall sports during the currently defined fall season – will have an opportunity to play their sports in the spring. However, a task force will be needed to work with our staff to create certain parameters to see what those spring sports opportunities look like. As the pandemic has proved, this is an evolving situation, so more details will be shared with the membership when appropriate.