On Wednesday, Aug. 5, the Oregon School Activities Association, OSAA, took the unusual step of releasing a new sports calendar for the 2020-2021 school year.
The new calendar, which is in response to directives from the Oregon Health Authority and the governor concerning school reopening's and group gatherings, has four seasons instead of the usual three.
"The goal was to try to maximize opportunities for students, providing three distinct seasons for schools later in the year," OSAA executive director Peter Weber said.
"I think one of our big pushes as athletic administrators was to find a way to get our kids to participate and this calendar does that," Madras High School athletic director Evan Brown said. "It will work. Is it ideal? Heck no. But in these circumstances, it is definitely a way to allow our kids to continue to participate. With our school, just having those extracurricular activities and having that connection with coaches is just huge for our kids' success inside the classroom and outside the classroom."
"It's refreshing to see something on paper where we get to see all three seasons on there," Crook County athletic director Rob Bonner said. "It's something we can give coaches, athletes and families and it feels good to have that. I'm impressed with the flexibility and creativity the OSAA showed to get to this point."
Culver's athletic director, Shea Little, was also pleased to know that the new calendar will give students the opportunity to compete in all three traditional sports seasons.
"I understand both sides of the pendulum when dealing with covid, athletics and schools," said Little, who has had a lung transplant and is consequently in what is considered a high-risk group for covid-19. "I would love our students to be able to return to regular play, but we need to keep in mind their safety, along with their families. I support the OSAA trying to provide the three seasons this year. I hope that we can all return to play, and eventually return to regular play."
Although the schedule provides for all extracurricular activities to continue, seasons are compressed, and post season competition is currently limited to just one week. For sports such as cross country, track and field, golf, tennis and wrestling that will probably mean little or no change in the post season. However, for team sports that traditionally play at least one playoff game prior to the state tournament, such as basketball and volleyball, that may mean some kind of change. Sports such as football, baseball and softball that traditionally have longer post seasons will likely see a dramatic change in their post season schedule.
Under the new calendar, season 1 begins Aug. 31 and runs through Dec. 27. However, there are no OSAA sanctioned events during that season. Teams will be allowed to practice, and regional competitions in some sports could theoretically be allowed provided the competitions met all guidelines set down by the governor, the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education.
"We think that's just as important," Weber said of season 1. "We'll hopefully get kids an opportunity to get re-engaged and participating. We feel like it's really important to their physical and mental health. That's a big piece. They could train, they could have practice, and in some cases, they could have contests against other schools in their local area or region. We think it provides opportunities for kids to get back participating while preserving the seasons for later in the school year."
Bonner is optimistic that some athletes could be able to compete in the fall, at least in a limited capacity. However, he noted that it is still too early to know exactly how things will look.
"It is possible," Bonner said of fall competition. "With the governor's orders, the Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon Department of Education, all of those things would have to be able to be recognized and also it would have to be a direction that our district and school board would approve, but if things fall into place, yes, it would be possible to have some activities and competitions this fall."
Season two, which includes swimming, wrestling and both boys and girls basketball, would begin practice on Dec. 28 with the season ending in a culminating week March 1-7.
Season three will include cross country, volleyball, soccer and football, with practice beginning Feb. 22. Volleyball, soccer and and cross country season would conclude the week of April 26-May 2 with the football season ending the week of May 10-16.
Season four, which includes golf, tennis, track & field, baseball and softball will begin practice on April 19 with a culminating week June 23-27.
All three traditional sports seasons will be limited to seven weeks of competition, with all sports with the exception of football having two weeks of practice prior to the first competition. Football will have three weeks of practice before their first game.
The schedule also limits the number of competitions that can be held in each sport. Basketball is limited to 14 games prior to the post season, while wrestling can have nine events and wrestlers may compete in up to 30 matches. Swimming is limited to eight meets.
Cross country is allowed up to nine meets, while volleyball can have up to 14 playing dates and soccer can play 10 matches and football is limited to seven games.
Golf will be allowed to play up to 14 nine-hole rounds, tennis can have up to 12 playing dates and track and field can have nine meets, while both baseball and softball are allowed up to 18 games.
The remaining OSAA sponsored activities, cheerleading, dance/drill, speech, solo music, choir and band/orchestra, have no defined seasons.
The new calendar is similar to the calendar that Nevada recently adopted. California also moved fall athletics to the spring, and several other states are expected to follow suit.
"Nearly all schools are going to have to spend a significant part of the fall in comprehensive distance learning, OSAA executive director Peter Weber said, while announcing the new calendar. "That will present challenges in terms of the ability to offer opportunities to students in some areas. So, moving the season allows for those opportunities."
The new calendar means that all of the scheduling done last year for the 2020-2021 school year will have to be discarded and new schedules made.
Adding to the complexity, teams and individuals that fail to qualify for the post season will be allowed to continue to compete during the culminating week.
With seasons now clearly defined and a definite plan moving forward, Culver, Madras and Crook County are continuing to have summer practices.
"We've had our workouts going right now that comply with the state and CDC guidelines with our social distancing and pods," Brown said. "I think it's premature to jump on any kind of changes at this point."
"The main thing probably would be that the OSAA has given the schools and communities flexibility in season Number 1, which is great," Bonner added. "Communities and the schools themselves are going to have to put some procedures in place so as to not pull the athletes in a bunch of different directions. You know, all programs are going to be chomping at the bit to do what they can do, but we need to make sure that we move forward in a way that is healthy for our athletes, families and the community."
For more information about the new OSAA calendar go to OSAA.org, then click on the OSAA Coronavirus information page.
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