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Volleyball remains up in the air, but other high school sports start on Feb. 22

The OSAA has finally given the OK for Oregon high school sports to begin. At an executive board meeting on Monday, Feb. 8, the board voted to allow fall sports to move ahead.

At the time the executive board made the decision, it did not know if the governor would allow football to play or not. Consequently, the board made the decision to allow either flag football, or seven-on-seven competitions should schools be unable to play full contact games.

Football practice started later that day, despite the fact that no one knew whether or not they would be allowed to play. Then, on Wednesday, football teams got the word that they would be allowed to play when the governor's office announced executive order 20-66. That order included the news that football teams in counties in the low or medium risk categories could begin contact this coming week, and that counties in high and extreme risk categories could chose to opt in.

From Wednesday until Friday, coaches and administrators had to wait for guidance from the Oregon Health Authority to know what opt in means. But, by Friday afternoon, the wait was over, and Crook County is clear to move ahead with football, despite still being in an extreme risk county.

"We started practice on Monday doing no-contact and some skill drills," said Crook County head football coach Ryan Cochran. "When we got the word on Wednesday, the kids were excited. We have a reason to play for, and something to look forward to, so I think coaches and kids and parents were super excited when that came out."

"The governor's latest notice gave an opening for outdoor contact sports, so football went from out to being able to opt in," added Crook County athletic director Rob Bonner. "We definitely feel like we have enough time to do all the guidelines and get it accomplished so that we can get going."

In fact, football players are so eager to move toward contact that the team arranged to have snow blowers on the field on Sunday, so they would be able to practice on Monday.

Other fall sports are scheduled to start practice on Monday, Feb. 22.

That is, most fall sports are clear to move ahead. Both boys and girls soccer and cross country will start on the 22nd for any schools who have on-sight instruction, as Crook County does. Volleyball is another matter. Volleyball teams in low, medium, and high risk counties may start practice on the 22nd. However, for teams in extreme risk counties, that is another matter. Those teams are still under the governor's restrictions limiting contact in gyms to no more than six individuals for no more than 45 minutes at a time.

With Crook County still in the extreme risk category, that means that the volleyball team will not be able to start practice on schedule.

"Volleyball is the sport that is still inconvenienced the most," said Bonner. "It is an indoor sport that is not a full contact sport, so the governor's orders say you can do it outside, but you can't do it indoors. We have got to get from the extreme risk category to the high risk category before volleyball can continue."

Bonner added that the county missed moving down to high risk last week by just one COVID case.

"That was frustrating, but hopefully this next time, on the 23rd, we can drop to the high risk category, and then by that Friday we would be able to resume volleyball. We may have to push back our first game because we may not have enough practices to be able to accomplish that game, but we can move it."

Still, that means that the volleyball team will miss at least a week of practice, and will most likely not be able to begin games on schedule.

The Current OSAA calendar allows for competition to begin starting on March 1.

Crook County's volleyball team has been attempting to get ready for the upcoming season while still complying with the governor's executive orders. As a result, two days a week coaches are meeting with six players for 45 minutes, then excusing those players, sanitizing the volleyballs and the gym, then having six more players in for another 45 minutes, and so on, attempting to get all of their players some skill work.

The fall season is abbreviated, with just six weeks of competition followed by a "culminating" week. The OSAA has yet to decide what culminating week means, and will make that decision at its Feb. 17 executive board meeting.

No one knows what its decision might be. At the moment, no more than two teams are allowed on site for any indoor event, and outdoor events are capped at no more than 120 people present for competitions. That means that there will be no spectators for any events. It also means that the OSAA will have several major hurdles to overcome if they decide to try to hold state championships, and it means that football, baseball and softball will be unable to hold normal state championships as their playoffs take weeks to finish. Instead, football may be forced to do something more like what six-man football has done for the past two years: have multiple teams from across the state meet with the first place teams from one league playing the first place team from another, while the second place teams from the same leagues also play each other. But, who knows, we will just have to wait and see what the OSAA decides after consulting with the governor's office.

According to the OSAA calendar, baseball and softball pitchers and catchers will be allowed to begin practicing on Monday, March 22. The fall season will end on Saturday, April 3, with the culminating week to follow, while the day of spring practice will begin on Monday, April 12. The last day for fall sports is Saturday, May 15, with a culminating week to follow. Basketball and wrestling are scheduled to start near the end of May, and run through Saturday, June 19, with a culminating week to follow.

Although basketball and wrestling are on the calendar, winter sports are still in jeopardy, as to date the governor is not allowing full contact indoor sports to be played.

However, even that is being taken as good news by Bonner. That is because since football is being allowed to resume full contact Bonner sees no reason that both basketball and wrestling could not move practice and competition outside since by the time winter sports are scheduled to begin, the weather will be better.

"With this new guidance, we can do those things outside right now, if we want," he said. "Of course, we can't govern the weather, but if it's still May and June, we are going to be able to do those activities outdoors, so for the first time its looking like we are going to get those two sports in as well, and I'm just so excited about that. It's not the timeline that any of us want, but it's definitely getting better."

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