XENIA — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that high school athletes will have a big say as to whether or not their particular fall sports can be played during the COVID-19 pandemic.
High schools were permitted to begin sports practices Aug. 1. Contests between schools in cross country, golf, tennis and volleyball have been approved by DeWine, while the Ohio High School Athletic Association is waiting to hear the fate of field hockey, football, and soccer. Soccer and field hockey are slated to start Friday, Aug. 21. Football is scheduled to start the week of Aug. 24, with most teams playing Friday, Aug. 28.
During a “return to school” Zoom call with media on Tuesday, DeWine said final decisions are “coming shortly” and the guidance he offers will not just be about the sport.
“These decisions are not made in a vacuum,” DeWine said. “It’s not a question does that young person play football, does that person play in the band. Part of the question is what do they do if they’re not doing that? One of the arguments for sports is it does have a discipline to it. Part of that discipline this year will have to be different than the normal discipline. The discipline this year will have to be being safe.”
During the Zoom call, DeWine had three physicians from Ohio’s children’s hospitals speak about school-age kids and COVID-19. All agreed that being outdoors is a great way to help prevent the spread. Dr. Patty Manning from Cincinnati Children’s said — in order of importance — masking, distancing, hand hygiene, and cleaning surfaces are the four specific strategies to help control the spread.
That coincides with a plan the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association sent to DeWine and the OHSAA, which outlined myriad steps schools will take if allowed to play, including wearing masks, keeping socially distant on the field and in the bleachers, and sanitizing hands and game equipment.
But that’s just part of the equation. What the athletes do off the field is equally important.
“Everybody literally on that team is in it together,” DeWine said, adding that if one gets sick, it’s likely others will too.
“Our coaches, our teachers have a great opportunity to help these young people understand that the choices they make at 9 o’clock at night, or 10 o’clock at night, or some other time on the weekend when they’re not practicing or when they’re not with their coach, that those life choices that they’re going to make this year, they’re always important, but this year they’re more important than they’ve ever been before,” DeWine said.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.