Phase two begins: OHSAA outlines expanded guidelines for practices

MIAMI COUNTY — Contact sports have been permitted to work on conditioning and skills since the start of June.

Now, they can take the next step if they choose.

On Thursday, Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced that all sports — including the contact ones such as football, basketball and more — could resume contact training during practices, as well as intrasquad scrimmages, beginning Monday, June 22, and the Ohio High School Athletic Association updated its member schools on the expanded guidelines with a memo released over the weekend.

“Phase 2 will reopen contact practice for all sports. This means basketball, football, lacrosse and other contact sports can resume scrimmages and full training regiments as long as safety protocols are observed,” Husted said during Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s Thursday press conference. “The start date for Phase 2 will be June the 22.”

Since the term “phases” has been used to mean many different things during the state’s efforts to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, the OHSAA tried to clarify some things.

“Recently, the OHSAA provided a guidance document that listed ‘phases’ to reopen sports that utilize school facilities. That guidance recommended phases to slowly and safely open up to the permissions granted by the Governor’s orders for low/no-contact sports as well as contact sports as defined by the Governor,” OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass said in the memo. “At that time, there were no ‘phases’ outlined by the Governor — simply a ‘date’ for responsibly restarting those programs. (Thursday), they outlined phases for what the Governor’s orders will now permit. The phases provided by the Governor and the phases previously provided by the OHSAA are two entirely separate documents.”

According to the guidelines, contact sports were allowed to resume open gyms and open fields beginning Monday, while low/non-contact sports keep all of the permissions previously granted from May 26. Daily assessments of athletes and coaches are still required, and spectators are permitted but also must adhere to the guidelines such as daily assessments and social distancing. In addition, while there isn’t a restriction on how many people are permitted to attend the open fields or gyms or facilities, anyone not participating on the field of play or skill sessions must remain socially distanced. Athletic trainers must also wear facemasks while treating athletes, and since the 10-day rule has been waived for summer 2020, there is no limit to the number of days open gyms and fields can be held.

Also, even though scrimmages are permitted, they are being restricted to intrasquad scrimmages and not contests between two different schools or communities.

And while the guidelines permit expanded practices, they are no required — individual teams can still choose to continue doing what was previously permitted, and local health departments still have the right to restrict the permissions granted to schools and facilities in their jurisdictions.

The Troy football team is among those that aren’t in a rush to take advantage of the new permissions.

“We didn’t really overhaul anything and stuck with our original plan that we collaborated on with the local health department,” Troy football coach Dan Gress said. “They’re allowing contact practice and laid out some guidelines that seem to be on the right path for returning to some normalcy for football and all sports in general. We just finished week one of our phase two, so we still have another week of phase two.

“Still, though, you can tell there’s a big focus on doing what’s best for you, your program and your school district and what everyone agrees on with your health department. Even though it started, technically you don’t have to start on that phase right now.”

Still, Gress and the Trojans see the new permissions as another positive sign as fall season draws closer, with no official decisions or announcements having been made yet on whether or not it will take place.

“It’s very encouraging and exciting for us players and coaches,” Gress said. “But to be honest, it didn’t change too much for us. We’re outside doing skills training, and we still plan on using all of our scheduled camp days in July. Right now, we’re focused on being in the best possible shape we can be in coming out of June and going into July.”