The Ohio High School Athletic Association says winter sports seasons will go forward as planned. A recent membership survey showed 56% of administrators and athletic directors want to proceed on schedule.
There were a total of 1,464 votes in the member survey about winter sports season. 56% wanted to start as planned. 33% wanted to suspend with defined schedule in January. 11% favored suspending all winter contests immediately and begin when/if conditions change.
Existing requirements for facial coverings, social distancing and frequent hand washing be followed and that facility hosts disinfect and clean competition and high contact areas frequently. Also note that the state health order has a limit on spectator capacity, which is the lesser of 15 percent of fixed, permanent seats or 300.
The OHSAA has received additional guidance from the Ohio Department of Health on various winter (indoor) sports concerns.
First, contest participants (athletes waiting to play and athletes completing play, plus cheerleaders, pep band members, etc.) do not count toward a sports venue’s allowable number of spectators under Ohio’s Sports Order or any variance that has been approved for your facility. However, school administrators are cautioned to use good judgement in this area. If, for example, auxiliary areas are available for athletes waiting to play or having completed play, including cheerleaders, pep band members, etc., consider placing these students in that area. No matter where these students are placed, six-feet social distancing mandates must be followed, and facial coverings are required. Consideration should also be given to sending freshman, junior varsity and/or varsity teams on separate transportation to away contests and having those groups depart after their specific contests are completed.
Secondly, cheerleaders and pep band members are considered to be participants in the sports event and consequently subject to the Sports Order and guidance.
In light of the governor’s 21-day curfew, gyms/venues will need to be vacated by 10pm. The new curfew starts November 19th. Girls basketball regular season can start November 20th and boys season on November 25th.
The curfew order does not mean schools must be home from their competitions strictly at 10pm, but game gyms/venues need to be vacated by 10pm followed by transportation back home. Consideration by schools and leagues should be given to move starting times for contests earlier.
The OHSAA says the new curfew order does mean it is imperative that administrators work with student-athletes and coaches to emphasize that, once the contest ends or schools return from road trips, everyone should go home and not congregate at someone’s house or a local restaurant.
Those types of gatherings have proven to help spread the virus and may play a major role in pausing a school’s season.