COLUMBUS — Keeping pace with the change in guidelines handed down by Gov. Mike DeWine's office, the Ohio High School Athletic Association Tuesday released its newest update to the mandated no-contact period for spring sports athletes to coincide with mandatory school closures, which extend through May 1.
"This is to assist with the governor's stay-at-home order, to prohibit coaches from privately meeting with student athletes and to put all schools on an equal level relative to future competitive opportunities," OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass said in a release. "It should be noted that the no-contact regulation was never intended to discourage or prohibit electronic communication with student athletes.
"For the mental well-being of student athletes, it is actually encouraged," Snodgrass added of students keeping in touch with each other electronically. "But it is not intended for coaches to encourage any form of group gatherings or instruction."
The new regulations state no practices or competitions may occur through May 1 and hint at the likelihood of shortening spring sports schedules once the seasons begin, if at all.
"Since other events and activities are not permitted by the current governor's orders, we collectively believe we can continue looking at abbreviated schedules for spring sports," Snodgrass said. "While cancellation remains on the table with all other options, there are many factors that enter into possibilities."
Holgate Athletic Director Rich Finley said he has faith the OHSAA is operating with the best interests of its student athletes in mind.
"This is totally unprecedented," Finley said. "But I believe the OHSAA is doing what's best for us and is looking out in the interest of everyone involved. Unfortunately, there isn't much we can do right now but follow guidelines and stay healthy and safe so this ends soon."
Snodgrass went on to state that the health and safety of all involved continues to hold the highest priority.
"Under no circumstances will we compromise the safety of student athletes, coaches, officials, game workers or fans," Snodgrass said. "Everyone in the schools is aware of the extremely fluid situation and we will continue to update as things change."
While the global coronavirus pandemic has affected spring sports and the winter sports state tournaments most directly, Snodgrass mentioned there will likely be a trickle-down effect to the summer and fall schedules.
"In the event activities are permitted to begin in June or July, we are looking at adjusting off-season regulations to expedite a return to school-based athletic programs," Snodgrass said. "I feel it is important for our staff to look at every what if and be prepared.
"In a worst-case scenario, if events/practices/training are shut down during or through the summer, the reality exists that many of the thousands of student athletes may lack any high-level physical training," Snodgrass added. "We need to look at what serves our student athletes best relative to acclimatization periods. I want to stress that we are planning for worst-case scenarios by identifying all the challenges we could possibly face."