Kicking the can down the road is the primary game high school sports has played in Oregon since March. On Monday, state sports officials will decide whether to continue along the same route or and try a different game altogether.
The Oregon School Activities Association executive board plans to meet at 9 a.m. to decide the next steps are for high school sports, which were scheduled to start Dec. 28.
“I do know we won’t be able to start on Dec. 28,” said Peter Weber, the executive director of the OSAA.
“Given where the case count is we are going to make some adjustments. The goal is for the board to make a decision so that we can have that out Monday afternoon.”
Approaching the late December start date, delaying the start appeared to be evident given that many sports, including basketball and wrestling, are still prohibited by the Oregon Health Authority.
“The sports that are going to be started soon (basketball, wrestling and swimming) everything we want to get going is indoor activities and we can’t do that,” said Dave Williams, the athletic director of Bend-La Pine Schools. “I would hate to see us cancel things. That is the easy thing to do. I think schools and programs have to start thinking outside the box for kids so that we can get them in some type of environment where we can compete.”
A couple of scenarios are under consideration by the Association.
Shorten the seasons even more and further limit the already bare-bone schedules, allowing athletes to continue to play multiple sports, a key factor in the OSAA’s decision to postpone sports in the fall.
“Personally, I don’t like the option of shortening things,” said Crook County Athletic Director Rob Bonner, adding that he understands the bind merging seasons may put on smaller schools that heavily rely on multisport athletes. “If we take a season and shorten it down to five or six weeks, you lose the hope of any type of state tournament. I like the idea of maximizing the seasons. At least the kids get to choose.”
Not shrinking the number of contests would force athletes to choose one sport over another.
“I would not like to see them take Season 2 (winter sports) and push it on top of Season 4 (spring sports) where we force kids to choose,” Williams said.
Weber also said that the OSAA is still considering a combination of condensed and delaying seasons, as is reshuffling the seasons to allow the noncontact sports to compete if it’s possible.
Schools, meanwhile, are in a wait and see situation with the governor’s office, OHA and Oregon Department of Education feeding information to the OSAA about how school sports can move forward. Athletic directors throughout Central Oregon have been working together to build a more regional-based schedule, per the OSAA’s recommendation. But those plans, too, are in flux.
High school athletes have been playing sports within the framework of the health guidelines for several weeks and competing against other schools, unofficially. Continuing competition is seen as vital for high school athletes.
“These are athletes, and athletes compete,” Bonner said. “You bring them together for practice and that is healthy and desperately needed. They are used to competing.”
Providing participation opportunities and giving students a chance to represent their schools and communities is a primary function for the OSAA, but plans are outside of its control.
“Ideally we would have contests,” Weber said. “Many of these decisions are based on what we can and cannot do.”
While the majority of the states have either modified or had no changes to their fall seasons, Oregon is one of six states to have no fall competition, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Campaigns have been started by the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association to help bring the return of high school sports.
“We are trying to provide as many positive opportunities for students as possible,” said Rob Younger, the executive director of the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association. “We anticipate that things will get moved back, but yet we want to promote, for as soon as the opportunity (to return) arises, we would like to see student athlete compete in activities in Oregon.”
Part of the campaign by the coaches association this weekend: High school athletes in Oregon are being encouraged to take to social media and make videos as part of “#maskup to make it #safe2play” prior to Monday’s executive board meeting.
“We want them to show that the athletes are willing to step up and show that we are willing and ready to play,” Younger said.
With a looming decision by the OSAA, the hope is that the guidelines are not more of the same.
Or as Williams put it: “We can only be kicked down the road so many times.”