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Organizations work together

Goal for officials, coaches is 2020 fall sports season

The Ohio High School Athletic Association released “Return to Play Guidelines” earlier this week for all seven fall sports.

The guidelines were in conjunction with many of the rule modifications set forth by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

One of the main focuses for schools, as well as the OHSAA, has been on football because of its popularity and the income it generates for athletic departments and different organizations. There are numerous changes forthcoming, with some scheduled to be implemented Aug. 1, when schools are allowed to begin fall sports in full, and others starting when competitions versus other teams commence.

Some of the key rules and recommendations from the NFHS are as follows:

¯ The team “box” on both sides of the field will be extended to the 10-yard line for players only (it was formerly the 25-yard line).

¯ Officials will have less contact with footballs. Players of the offensive team will handle the ball and take it to the huddle with them. The umpire will place a bean bag where the ball will be snapped.

¯ Face coverings are permissible. Plastic face shields are allowed only when integrated into the facemask, attached to the helmet and are clear without tint.

¯ Each official and player should have their own beverage container brought to them during stoppages.

Some of the recommendations from the OHSAA:

¯ Shorten halftime to the NFHS minimum of 10 minutes.

¯ Suspend handshakes before and after games.

¯ Face coverings are “strongly recommended” for all coaches, team staff and officials.

The guidelines were released one day after the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association sent a report to Gov. Mike DeWine with safety recommendations for restarting high school football. A link for the OHSFCA’s release was posted at the bottom of the OHSAA’s statement online.

Tom Pavlansky, Lakeview High School football coach and the president of the OHSFCA, was encouraged by the modifications from the OHSAA and NFHS. He also hopes that open dialogue between the different organizations, along with the health department and Gov. DeWine, can lead to communication about the possible changes.

“One big difference, and I hope we’ll have discussions on it, is we want the coaches to have their team box extended, too,” said Pavlansky, referring to the team box being extended to the 10-yard line for players only. “If they’re going to limit the coaches to being at the 25-yard line, and the kids go down to the 10, they are still kids. They need to be supervised accordingly. That’s a concern of ours, and I’m sure we’ll have discussions going forward.”

Pavlansky did say he understood the reasoning of keeping coaches away from the goal line, admitting that “sometimes the emotions of the game, the circumstances of the game can get the best of them.”

The OHSFCA suggested several adjustments in its release.

It asked fans to social distance and wear masks. It proposed 18 minutes of full contact per day at practice (down from 30), adding an isolation room and extending the amount of mandatory stoppages in play during games from four to eight. They also suggested one scrimmage with only two teams allowed.

Many of their alterations aligned with the NFHS and the OHSAA, but there were some differences, including asking for eight total mandatory stops in play (one every 6 minutes).

“The other one was, and hopefully we’ll have discussions too, is we called for, at the 6-minute mark, to have a mandatory break of 2 minutes, so kids can social distance, clean and hand sanitize the best we can,” said Pavlansky, in reference to the OHSAA recommendation of simply extending the four stoppages to 2 minutes instead of 1. “We’ll see what happens.”

Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted both acknowledged receiving and looking over the OHSFCA plan.

DeWine preached a bit more patience, reassuring that he understands fall sports are set to begin on Aug. 1. He added that he intends to give coaches “additional guidance” through conversations with them.

“But, frankly, we’ve got to get a little closer to this in time,” said DeWine during Wednesday’s press conference. “We know that training’s going on. We know that practices have been taking place. We understand the timeline, but we want to see where we are, and we need to get a little closer before we can make any kind of decision in regard to that. We’ll be in consultation with a lot of coaches and with the schools.”

Lt. Gov. Husted applauded the coaches’ work.

“We’re taking a look at their plan,” Husted said Wednesday. “They’ve done some great work, and it’s very helpful to informing our conversations. So, thanks to them.”

The OHSAA also is working in line with the state.

In its proposal, it stated the release “should be considered as recommendations from the Ohio High School Athletic Association for its member schools and should NOT supersede guidelines, mandates, requirements and/or orders put into place by the Ohio Governor’s Office and/or the Ohio Department of Health and/or guidelines, mandates, requirements and/or orders put into place by federal, local or county organizations or health departments and/or local school districts.”

Pavlansky was glad to see the many levels of the state working in unison.

“We have to take the best practices that we know and go forward,” he said. “That was the goal of the (OHSFCA) was to put our recommendations that we believe would help us have the opportunity to have a fall football season. The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association is eager to work with the governor’s office, work with medical officials, and work with the OHSAA to ensure that opportunity to have a fall football season.”

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