As a school year without a track season, baseball season, softball season, or even golf winds down, the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) has established guidelines to help schools and their sports teams move forward into summer and fall.
OSAA guidelines note that student athletes have likely been “deconditioned” during COVID-19 social distancing and school closures, and urge coaches to moderate the intensity of training as students return to group athletics.
The guidelines also caution that “Due to the near certainty of recurrent outbreaks in the coming months, schools and youth sports organizations must be prepared for periodic school closures and the possibility of some teams having to isolate for two or more weeks while in season.”
Under Phase 1 openings, OSAA strongly suggests cleaning, restricting the number of entrances and exits to events and practices, limiting gatherings to 25 and having students work out in “pods” of 5 to 10 students. Cloth facemasks are recommended, except for swimming, distance running and “other high-intensity aerobic activity.” Students and coaches should be screened daily for COVID-19 symptoms, including a daily temperature check.
OSAA guidelines for practice in team sports will require coaches and athletes to be creative, and also restrained. Sports deemed to have a low risk of COVID-19 infection, including cross country, tennis and golf, require 6-foot spacing between participants. In moderate infection-risk activities, including volleyball, soccer, and basketball, athletes should not use a ball that has been touched by another player. Basketball practice guidelines, for example, state “No contact or sharing of balls. A player may shoot with a ball, but a team should not practice/pass a single ball among the team where multiple players touch the same ball.”
For sports with the highest risks of spreading COVID-19 infection, including football, wrestling, and cheerleading, suggested rules are even more strict. Football practice guidelines note that “…A player should not participate in drills with a single ball that will be handed off or passed to other team-mates. Contact with other players is not allowed…..Protective equipment is prohibited.”
OSAA notes that the guidance is not intended to be prescriptive, but rather to elicit thoughtful discussion at the local level among school administrators, coaches, parents, students and communities about navigating a gradual reopening of high school activities. Phase 2 guidelines have not, as yet, been drawn up.