OSAA hits pause on football, some volleyball seasons

This file photo depicts the Newport High School boys soccer team in action during the fall of 2018. Prep soccer and cross country athletes throughout Oregon are slated to start team practices Feb. 22 and begin interscholastic competition as early as March 1. (News-Times file photo)

Soccer and cross country remain on schedule

OREGON — Prep soccer and cross country athletes throughout the state received some good news as a result of Monday’s virtual meeting of the Oregon School Activities Association executive board. Football and some high school volleyball programs will have to wait a little longer to see if similar good news is pending.

During the meeting, the board voted to maintain its current schedule for non-contact Season 2 high school sports, meaning boys and girls soccer and cross country programs may start practicing Feb. 22 and compete in interscholastic events beginning March 1.

Because football is classified by the state as a Season 2 contact sport, current state guidelines forbid football practices and games from commencing in all of Oregon’s counties. Team activities for volleyball, also considered a contact Season 2 sport, are permitted to begin Feb. 22 with games on March 1 in counties not listed under Gov. Kate Brown’s extreme-risk category. On Tuesday morning, the state listed 14 of 36 counties as extreme risk, and Lincoln County remained a high-risk county.

However, the executive board members on multiple occasions during Monday’s meeting indicated they expected new state guidance for contact sports to be issued by the state in the coming days. That’s leaving board members, football programs throughout the state and volleyball teams in extreme-risk counties hopeful a window of opportunity opens soon for the proposed upcoming season.

“We’re anticipating, based on the conversations, some type of changes to the contact sports guidance in the next couple of days,” OSAA executive director Peter Weber said in a story on the OSAA website. “We don’t know what those changes are. But any change would be an improvement to where they are now.

“While we’re waiting for that to potentially happen, we know that we need to be providing the options to schools that will allow people to move forward, depending on what that guidance looks like.”

If no changes are made to current state COVID-19 prevention guidelines, full-contact football practices and games won’t be allowed. That’s why on Monday, the OSAA board approved potential football backup plans, such as 7-on-7 competitions, flag football games and virtual athlete challenges.

“I think we all know going in that not a single one of these activities is going to replace contact football. We get it,” assistant executive director Brad Garrett said on the OSAA website. “But at the same time, we are leveraging every possible opportunity to find opportunities to produce activities that kids and coaches can do together under the current guidelines.

“We certainly remain optimistic that as we move forward, we’re going to be able to see some adjustments to current policy that’s going to allow a potential return to the game. That’s what I’m hopeful for.”

The executive board additionally voted to proceed with volleyball in the state’s 22 counties listed in the moderate and high-risk categories. The board approved an option of outdoor volleyball for schools in the 14 extreme-risk counties.

The board tabled a discussion on culminating-week events, such as state and district tournaments, until a work session scheduled for Feb. 17.

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