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OHSAA says let’s get started

Fall sports practices are permitted to begin today

WARREN — The Ohio High School Athletic Association is moving forward today with its plans to begin fall sports.

The governing body for high school sports reassured its members that teams in girls tennis, girls and boys golf, field hockey, girls and boys soccer, cross country, volleyball and football can begin official practices today, making the announcement Friday afternoon.

Low-contact sports (golf, tennis, volleyball) can also begin contests between other schools, while scrimmages have been tentatively canceled for contact sports (field hockey, soccer, cross country and football). The OHSAA said it is continuing to work with Gov. Mike DeWine toward approval for those sports.

The association said its decision is based on what’s best for the student-athletes.

“It is important to keep athletic activity moving forward,” said Dan Leffingwell, president of the OHSAA Board of Directors and superintendent of the Noble Local Schools in Sarahsville, in the memo. “And with that, we believe our member schools provide our student-athletes with the safest possible environment to return to play and that our school programs are the best avenue to help students learn lifelong lessons and provide social, emotional and physical benefits that other programs cannot. Moving forward allows those students to continue to be engaged with their school coaches and teammates. Membership data also supports this decision.”

The OHSAA also posted a “question and answer” document, which provided some insight into how it plans on handling several unprecedented factors.

Some school districts around the state already have postponed sports, but the OHSAA wanted to continue to give other athletes the chance to compete.

“While some school districts have delayed sports to start the school year, our hope is that they resume sports sometime in the fall and start playing during the season,” the document reads. “In addition, the majority of our 815 high schools still can participate, so we owe it to those schools to move forward. It certainly is a tough decision to move forward. Local schools still have the discretion to make their own decisions based on what is best for their students and their communities, but we do not want to stop providing education-based athletics opportunities for those students who are still able to participate. “

The “Q&A” touched on several subjects.

The organization said it considered delaying the start of the seasons, but many student-athletes have already been competing in non-school sports and/or practicing and conditioning, and thus have already been participating.

The OHSAA also said inclement weather and the potential for more illnesses later in the year factored into the decision to move forward today.

The association added that there are penalties in place for teams that do not follow the state-mandated guidelines for each sport, but it did not specify what the consequences would be.

“The OHSAA already has consequences — or penalties — in place when schools are not in compliance with various regulations,” the OHSAA stated. “In this case, and simply put, the Governor’s Office believes schools should be accountable for non-compliance of the requirements put in place in order for our interscholastic activities to occur.”

The organization emphasized that modifications and delays could be enforced in the future, depending on the pandemic and orders from the governor and state health department. The OHSAA said it has other “models” in place in case the scenario changes. One of them involves condensing the seasons if a postponement is needed.

“If contact sports are not approved for school vs. school competition by Friday, September 4,” the release stated, “fall contact sports and remaining winter and spring sports will move to a condensed schedule that will take place between mid-December and the end of June. Fall non-contact sports would move forward as scheduled. …

“This is a time to think outside the box and figure out how we can provide the most opportunities for our student-athletes.”

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