Coaches from all levels within the Baker School District convened for a Zoom call Aug. 12 moderated by the District’s athletic director, Buell Gonzales Jr., to discuss plans for athletics in a year with pandemic-related restrictions.
Earlier this month, the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) introduced a new school activities calendar that postpones fall sports until 2021.
Those sports — football, soccer, volleyball and cross-country — are scheduled to start in late winter. They will be wedged between a season for traditional winter sports — basketball, wrestling and swimming — and a traditional spring sports season.
In the wake of this announcement, Gonzales needed to get the District’s coaches on the same page.
“We are all in this together, when we do this we have to do this the right way,” Gonzales said during the Zoom meeting.
How can sports happen with distance learning in place?
With no organized sports for the fall, Gonzales and coaches discussed other options.
OSAA’s schedule includes a five-week period this fall when practices could potentially happen — albeit only if students return to their classrooms in some fashion.
“The current stance of the district is that if we are in CDL (Comprehensive Distance Learning) then those mini seasons will be virtual,” Gonzales said.
The Baker School Board decided earlier this month to start the school year on Sept. 8 with all students attending virtual classes for at least the first nine weeks.
That means students in fall sports, with a practice period of Sept. 7-Oct. 9, and in spring sports, Oct. 12-Nov. 13, wouldn’t be able to practice together in person.
Winter sports possibly could have practices during the Nov. 16-Dec. 18 period if in-person classes resume, although Gonzales said that based on current OSAA regulations, basketball and wrestling couldn’t have regular practices due to the physical contact involved in those sports.
Basketball players and wrestlers could do individual conditioning.
When/how will the sports season begin?
If the situation improves later this fall and Baker students return to classes, either full-time or in the hybrid model that the school board initially planned for grades 7-12, with students attending in-person classes two days each week, the winter sports teams could begin practicing Dec. 28 in preparation for OSAA-sanctioned games, which could start as early as Jan. 11, 2021.
The competitive season for usual fall sports would start with practices on Feb. 22 and first games on March 8. The season would end May 1 for volleyball, soccer and cross-country, and May 8 for football.
The final season, for traditional spring sports — golf, tennis, track and field, baseball and softball — would start with practices on April 19 and first games May 3. The season would end June 26.
A rule once enforced only for football will be in effect for all sports. Each athlete needs to have at least nine organized practices before participating in a game. That requirement could be waived later in 2021 for students who have played in a sport earlier in the year and thus had the requisite practices.
“It just used to be football for safety reasons, so if you are a basketball player and you go into volleyball, you can go right into practice,” Gonzales said. “You wouldn’t need those nine days.”
What would happen if sports seasons overlap?
If student-athletes are transitioning from one sport to another, they need to complete a nine-day practice grace period before they could begin their next sport.
Because the spring season would extend until June 26, after graduation, Gonzales said there could be issues with seniors being eligible.
If things are safe enough to play again, how could this work?
Gonzales emphasizes the importance of communication. Coaches who have multi-sport athletes on their roster should keep each other in the loop in preparation for transition of seasons.
“You (coaches) are going to treat this like a real season, you are going to teach, you are going to model teamwork and accountability within the confines of what we are allowed to do,” Gonzales said during the Aug. 12 Zoom meeting.
Parents are encouraged to watch for emails from the school district and to check the Baker Bulldog Nation Facebook page. A Zoom meeting is set for this evening at 6:30 p.m. For information about attending, email Gonzales at firstname.lastname@example.org
The meeting will also be recorded and posted on the Bulldog Nation page.