High School Sports: Area leaders favor partial fall schedule over flipping to spring

This week the OHSAA sent a memo to members indicating plans are still in place for fall sports practices to begin Aug. 1.

That includes the usual season and postseason competitions for all 10 sports, something area athletics directors wanted to hear.

"I think communication is always the key," said Victoria Jones, who was just named director of athletics for Dayton Public Schools last week. "I'm glad that we got that direct communication from the OHSAA. That way you didn't have to build your own opinion.

“That brings comfort because you just have to trust their judgment in the decisions that they make, but I do think it is helpful from our seat to include us in that dialogue with letting us know what’s going on.”

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The memo followed a surprising change in leadership at the OHSAA, which replaced executive director Jerry Snodgrass with Bob Goldring on an interim basis.

The unexpected move seemed to spook many in and around high school athletics in Ohio, prompting concerns it could portend bad news on the horizon for fall sports after the winter championships and the entire spring season were canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Fears football season could be canceled or moved to the spring spread on social media, but Clark-Shawnee director of athletics Steve Tincher said he has seen no indication that is in the works.

He would not support such a move, either.

“There’s too many crossover sports, and I feel like once you get into switching things, getting back out of it becomes a big issue,” he said. “I wouldn’t be really enthused about playing football in the spring and then turn around playing football in the fall again.

“I think we’ve just got to ride it out, keep doing what we can do, and then eventually we’ll get back to where we can do everything on time and play full seasons again. But I think the switching around just creates more issues down the road.”

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Nathan Kopp at Xenia also shared misgivings about moving fall sports to the spring, pointing out spring athletes would then be at risk of losing two seasons in the span of six months if coronavirus cases continue rising or spike in the fall and force another stoppage in play.

“At bigger school districts such as us, a lot of times you know the kids aren’t getting to be a varsity athlete until their junior or senior year, so I’m a little skeptical of that, but I will do whatever I’m told to do,” Kopp said.

Rob Dement at Centerville, where freshmen football workouts have resumed after being paused because two Elks tested positive for COVID-19 in June, said he had not even thought about what a spring-fall flip might look like.

“I would hope that we’re not considering doing that because of all the issues that would bring with it, and we would be trying to as best we can to formulate a plan for the fall,” he said.

Dement, like others who were interviewed, acknowledged carrying out a fall season is not likely to happen without hiccups.

That could include postponements, cancelations or forfeits as a result of teams lacking enough healthy players in a given week.

“To sit here and say that we’re going to have an uninterrupted full fall season, you would have to have your head in the sand,” Dement said. “Obviously, just like with school we know there are going to be some things that we have to adjust.

“The same is going to be true with athletics, but any part of a season is going to be better than not having season.”

Tincher said he told his coaches this week he has put together a full fall season but not to be surprised if it does not come to pass.

“It’s a lot easier to scale it back than it is to try and increase during the year, so I’d rather start full-go like everything’s gonna happen, and then if we have to cancel things or we can’t do certain things, then we just don’t,” Tincher said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we have a delay in the start of the season, depending on what happens here in the next few weeks or over the next month. I told my coaches, be prepared for a delay, which would also shorten the season.”

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At Middletown, director of athletics J.D. Faust reacted to the Ohio Department of Health updating guidelines for sports Tuesday by sending an update to his athletes.

That included a reminder Butler County residents are now required to wear masks in public (per state orders) but not during practices or competitions.

“The coaches and trainers have been doing a great job at providing a clean and safe environment for our athletes, and we will continue to do so,” Faust said, noting any player who leave the state for vacation or competition are required to quarantine for 14 days or provide a negative test before returning to practices.

“Fall sports are still scheduled to start on Aug. 1, so we are doing everything in our power to keep your kids safe and ensure they are ready for the fall season.”

At Xenia, Kopp said the schedule-making is nearly complete — and the waiting has begun.

“I just want to give our kids a fall season,” he said. “When it’s safe and healthy, I’m hopeful we can do it.

“Right now I guess basically I’m cautiously optimistic, but it’s July 8,” Kopp said. “I think in three weeks a lot of things can change. Three weeks ago, things were a lot different than they are now, so we’re slowly progressing.”

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