OSAA logo and PHS gym
Photo illustration by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News

The prospect of seeing the return of high school sports in late December with official practices and in January with competition seems to be a long-shot.

That’s my opinion; we’ll find out more on Dec. 7 when the Oregon School Activities Association’s executive board meets and if the governor extends any restrictions.

The executive board’s meeting agenda includes a COVID-19 update, which includes information coming out of a school status survey and a vote on the OSAA’s Season 2 calendar. Under the current Season 2 plan, basketball, swimming and wrestling are all scheduled to begin competition against other schools.

Competition limitations remain in effect through executive orders out of the governor’s office which prohibit full-contact sports. The Oregon Health Authority’s definition of full-contact sports includes those that “involve a requirement or substantial likelihood of routine, sustained close proximity or physical contact between participants.”

That includes basketball and wrestling, as well as football, dance, cheerleading and others.

The OSAA’s Season 1 started in September with three sessions for the various sports. The winter sports teams began workouts on Nov. 17 and were to continue until Dec. 18. But those activities were suspended with the two-week statewide freeze imposed by the governor. At this time, the freeze remains in effect until at least Dec. 2.

An issue that complicates all of this is distance learning. The OSAA’s Basketball Contingency Group at its November meeting said that they wanted to focus on two areas: “Reclassifying basketball as a non-prohibitive sport and possibly working to adjust the restrictions on K-12 indoor sports being tied to the type of learning to allow schools who are in a Comprehensive Distance Learning (program) the opportunity to compete against other schools while still in distance learning.”

The Philomath School Board at its November meeting was forced to delay its timeline for in-school learning based on the coronavirus metrics. Under the plan currently on the table (or, maybe it’s not because this changes all the time), high school students wouldn’t get back into classrooms until an estimated Feb. 2.

The current OSAA sports calendar shows practices beginning Dec. 28 and competitions beginning Jan. 11.

School officials are looking for more clarity and guidance from the OSAA. Hopefully that will be coming on Dec. 7. For now, teams have to believe that there will be competitions and try to prepare for that possibility under the current restrictions.

At this moment with the pandemic metrics we’re seeing, it’s challenging to be optimistic about sports returning anytime soon. So, we wait.