Sports teams at Malheur County schools face new season schedules

The Oregon School Activities Association executive board voted Monday to revise the 2020-2021 prep sports schedules because of Covid. (The Enterprise/File).

VALE – Prep sports practice could begin in February under new guidance released by the Oregon School Activities Association Monday.

The OSAA announcement comes nearly nine months after the last prep basketball game was played in Malheur County and the spring sports season was scuttled because of the Covid epidemic.

The new regulations will hinge on the progress of the Covid virus and whether the infection begins to fade to manageable levels.

In August, the OSAA designated a four-season matrix consisting of Season 1, which was essentially a waiting period where off-season training was permitted, and three sporting seasons, dubbed Season 2, Season 3 and Season 4.

The OSAA’s executive board met Monday and voted to approve the new calendar by moving the start date for Season 2 to February with Season 3 and Season 4 to kick off later in the spring.

Another key revision approved by the OSAA executive board was to make each season weeks shorter than earlier planned. Now all competitive seasons will only last six weeks, including post-season.

Season 2 was originally planned to begin Dec. 28 but the new mandates from the OSAA “[allow] time for case counts to decrease in the new year and for counties to subsequently move out of the extreme risk category.”

“Today’s decision by the executive board is another reminder of the impact the pandemic has had on Oregon students and schools,” said Peter Weber, OSAA executive director.

Season 1 has now been extended to the start of Season 2 in February.

Season 2 includes all fall sports – such as football, cross country, volleyball and soccer – and will begin Feb. 8 when prep grid-iron teams can begin to practice. Competition will begin for all teams March 1.

Season 2 will run until April 4. Post-season action will begin April 5 and run until April 11.

Season 3 will include all spring sports, like baseball, softball, golf, tennis and track, and begins March 22 when pitchers and catchers start practice. Competition for all teams begins April 12.

Season 3 ends May 16 and post-season action starts May 17.

Season 4 will comprise traditional winter sports such as basketball, swimming and wrestling and it begins with practices May 10 while competition starts May 17. The season ends June 20. The post-season for Season 4 starts June 21.

Educators and students alike have expressed concern over students’ social and emotional wellbeing without sports.

Tom Snook, athletic director at Vale High School, said that the changes to the sports calendar were “not unexpected.”

Snook said the biggest issue he sees in the OSAA modifications is the overlap between sports seasons. He said it is still unclear how the overlap will play out for kids who want to play sports in two different seasons and have weeks of conflicting practice. Traditionally, there is a gap between, for example, the end of football season and the start of prep basketball schedules.

About the shortened seasons, Snook said, “Honestly, at this point we would take six weeks. We’ll take whatever they’re willing to give us.”

The OSAA said it plans to “revisit participation limitations for all seasons,” and further decisions will hinge on “updated state guidance or changing risk level metrics.”

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Season 1 was essentially canceled before it was started in Malheur County because of high Covid rates. Season 1 did begin in Malheur County with workouts and training. The Enterprise apologizes for the error.

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