OHSAA unveils 'return to play' guidelines for fall sports

JARROD ULREY
julrey@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Continuing to have its eye on beginning fall sports Aug. 1, the Ohio High School Athletic Association released a set of guidelines July 22 for each of the 10 sports it sanctions during the season.

The guidelines are considered “recommendations,” according to the document, which won’t supersede any mandates, requirements or orders imposed by Gov. Mike DeWine or the Ohio Department of Health.

>> Read the OHSAA "return to play" guidelines <<

DeWine said in his press conference July 22 that no decisions have been made regarding fall sports because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“The risk of coronavirus transmission will still be present to some degree as interscholastic athletics activities begin in August and will continue until there is a widely available vaccine or therapeutic care, possibly through the 2020-21 school year,” the OHSAA “return to play” recommendations said. “While the science about COVID-19 is evolving, it will be important to remain vigilant and nimble to respond to new developments. Students and their families, along with school personnel, must recognize these risks and implement best practices to reasonably mitigate these risks.”

The guidelines specify maintaining social distancing when not on the field or court, requiring face coverings while not competing, reducing or greatly eliminating unnecessary travel, reducing or eliminating sharing of common equipment and reducing or eliminating contact frequency with student-athletes from schools and non-interscholastic programs outside of each school’s league, conference or “normal competition sphere.”

“The existing guidance permits non-contact sports practices and competitive play and contact sport practices and intra-team scrimmages, but not inter-team scrimmages or competitive play at this time,” the document said. “As of July 22, 2020, the Ohio Department of Health was in the process of developing guidance for contact sport inter-team competitive play and OHSAA will share it with member schools when completed.”

The OHSAA’s non-contact fall sports are boys and girls golf, girls tennis and girls volleyball. Its contact fall sports are boys and girls cross country, football, boys and girls soccer and field hockey.

Many of the guidelines were put together in step with those suggested by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

According to the football recommendations, the team box should be extended on both sides of the field to the 10-yard lines for more social-distancing space and teams should maintain social distancing at all times while in the team box.

Similar guidance for social distancing on the sidelines for field hockey and soccer also are recommended.

Cleaning and sanitizing the ball throughout the contest also will be required.

Among the recommendations for cross country meets are that they use staggered, wave or interval starts and that courses should be widened to at least six feet at the narrowest point to help maintain social distancing.

In volleyball, the protocol of switching benches and courts between sets will be suspended.

Postgame handshakes also should be eliminated.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek