OSAA moves start of competition to March

McNary’s Jack Baez keeps the ball away from a defender in a game from last season. Boys soccer is scheduled to start March 1 (File).

The COVID-19 pandemic has once again forced the Oregon Schools Activities Association (OSAA) to rearrange their athletics schedule for the 2020-21 season. 

The OSAA executive board elected to push back the beginning of the sports season until March. However, OSAA will still offer three separate, six-week seasons, along with an extra “culminating week” which will allow teams an option for postseason competition.

“Our original plan wasn’t going to happen. We knew that we had to change it up,” said OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber. 

Under the current plan, traditional fall sports competition will begin on March 1. Spring sports competition starts on April 12 and winter sports will launch on May 17.

Current restrictions from Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Gov. Kate Brown’s office prohibit indoor sports in the majority of counties in the state, which is why the board decided to move the winter sports season into the late spring — practice for traditional winter sports will begin on May 10. 

“We wanted to push some of the prohibited sports further back to buy more time,” Weber said.

Fall sports, however, were moved up to the first season because outdoor sports such as cross country and soccer are permitted by OHA and the Governor’s office — fall sports practices, minus football, are allowed to start on Feb. 22. 

According to Weber, even if school districts are still in comprehensive distant learning, current state guidelines would allow student-athletes to compete in cross country and soccer this March.

All traditional spring sports (baseball, softball, golf, tennis, track & field) are also permitted outdoor activities according to state guidance — spring practice will start on April 5. 

While football is scheduled to begin practice on Feb. 8, the sport is still on Gov. Brown’s list of prohibited activities. Volleyball practice, on the other hand, can only start in counties that are deemed as less than “extreme risk” — only 11 of the 36 counties in Oregon fall under that category. 

The board did talk about moving football to later in the spring, but the discussion was negated when the OSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee told the board that a later football season would require modifications to the Fall 2021 football season. 

“There will be ongoing conversations regarding football and volleyball,” Weber said. 

Even though there will be some crossover, Weber says that multi-sport student-athletes would be able to compete in all three seasons. 

“The schedule is set up so that multi-sport athletes can move right into the next sport. Schools can also work together to provide opportunities to workout with a team while still finishing up their (seasonal) sport,” Weber said. 

It’s highly unlikely that there will be playoff brackets and state championships in the OSAA this season, which is why the board wanted to add a culminating week so that teams could have some semblance of a postseason. 

“Having a traditional state title is going to be very difficult, but we’re still looking at ways teams can compete in something meaningful as they wrap up their seasons,” Weber said. 

The board hasn’t had a lot of discussion about whether or not a limited number of spectators will be allowed, but Weber promises that the issue will be addressed in the coming months. 

“Our goal has always been to provide the activity first, and then we will talk about if we can have spectators. We will see what the restrictions look like when we get closer to the season,” Weber said.