Scappoose, St. Helens athletes preparing for fall sports
According to the calendar on the Oregon School Activities Association website, practices for the fall high school sports season are supposed to begin on Monday, Aug. 17.
Just 10 days later, on Thursday, Aug. 27, the first fall sports contests are scheduled to take place.
The problem right now — here in the midst of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic — is that no one knows whether any of that will actually happen.
Faced with unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, the athletes at St. Helens and Scappoose high schools are doing what they do best — they're working hard. Both schools' athletes have started summer conditioning and individual skill work this month and at this point, are moving toward fall practice in hopes they will happen.
"Our teams began their workouts (and) in preparation for that, each team, each coach was required to submit a safety plan to myself and our district nurse for approval," said Scappoose Athletic Director Adam Strachan, noting that every plan had to meet approval benchmarks set by the Oregon Health Authority, OSAA and Oregon Department of Education. "And really the district nurse is the expert in this area so she pored over every safety plan, and as they were needed, coaches made adjustments."
"Yeah, we've got some kids working out in the weight room," said St. Helens Athletic Director Ted Hirning. "You can only have 10 in the weight room at a time now after last week's governor's order came out, and we've got some cross country runners out running in the morning and soccer stuff going on, but that's it. It's small, maybe not even an hour, just kind of getting the kids back into it slowly — that's kind of our plan."
• Workouts: High school athletes are currently in the midst of conditioning and individual skills workouts
• Practices: At this point, fall sports practices are still set to begin on Aug. 17
• Next Up: The OSAA's executive board meets this week to discuss prospects for 2020-21 sports and may release a plan Friday
As of Monday, July 20, Columbia County had seen just 11.8 cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 residents, with 39 percent of those cases recovered, less than 1% of those cases resulting in death and 99% of its tests coming back negative.
Right now, the athletes' summer activities are limited to individual skill work and conditioning, with guidance that recommends the use of facemasks and temperature checks, limits the size of gatherings, maintains social distancing recommendations and more.
"(For) a lot of them, it's just kind of getting back out and doing something, so we're trying to do what we can for them and provide a safe environment," Hirning said.
"We were talking about (summer conditioning/skills work) a couple weeks ahead of that time, anticipating that date coming," Strachan said. "So after the coaches have submitted a safety plan and meeting all the OSAA and ODE and OHA safety guidelines for Phase 2, then they were given approval.
"After that, every player was required to turn in a PACE waiver that the OSAA provides on their website and we just tailor it to our district. … So really, those are the two main things we've done. We're following all the social distancing protocols and everything else that's sports specific in OSAA, ODE and OHA guidelines."
During those conditioning and skills sessions, schools will continue to monitor the health of local athletes and their coaches. If an athlete or a coach suspects they might be sick or shows symptoms that might indicate COVID-19, the Oregon School Activities directs the following response:
"Schools must continue to monitor athletes for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 prior to workouts. Emphasize to athletes and coaches not to attend workouts if they are ill. If an athlete or coach has a fever or other symptoms of COVID-19, they must be sent home. It is strongly recommended that they be tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to workouts.
Any athlete testing positive for COVID-19 must not return to physical activity for at least two weeks AFTER symptoms have resolved AND must be cleared for participation by their primary care provider. The county health department should initiate contact tracing and recommend further testing and any need for quarantine. In the event that multiple athletes participating in workouts develop COVID-19, the OSAA SMAC highly recommends workouts in that activity be suspended for at least two weeks and that the school consults with the local health department to discuss timing and procedures prior to reinitiating workouts."
For now, both Scappoose and St. Helens are forging ahead in hopes that the fall sports season will happen as planned.
"So, the OSAA still has a date out there of August 17," Strachan said. "All of our teams are preparing as if we were going to be playing games starting at the end of August, and we'll begin league season for all of our sports sometime in September, so we're preparing right now, in full."
"The OSAA, they've been updating us, but we haven't heard from them for a couple of weeks now," Hirning said. "The last plan from them was practices start on August 17. So that's kind of what I keep telling all our coaches — just plan for August 17 until we hear differently and that's what we're going to go with."
For now, just the promise of sports means a lot.
"So far, it's going really well," Strachan said. "It really sounds cheesy, but it warms the heart to see kids back out there together, smiling, having a good time in sports. It's one of those things that we've taken for granted forever, and it was taken away in the spring."
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