Governor’s sports orders leave prep facilities question unanswered

Ohio is emerging from the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, but some question remains what that means for some sports at the youth and high school level.

Although Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced last week certain low and non-contact sports can resume May 26, he did not specify rules for workouts by teams that compete in other seasons but also have activity in the summer.

Sports such as football and basketball do not fit the “non-contact” label when it comes to competition, but they are certainly capable of having non-contact workouts – if those are allowed.

»RELATED: OHSAA to lift non-contact rule for some sports

While a spokesperson for DeWine said that would be addressed in a forthcoming order, it had not been released as of Tuesday afternoon.

Additionally, there is some question about when high schools are able to open their facilities because a previous order from DeWine and Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton has them closed until the end of June despite the OHSAA’s limit on contact between coaches and players expiring June 1.

“We haven’t gotten any directive from the governor’s office or anybody else to move that forward or anything like that,” Springfield director of athletics Mike Dellapina said. “Until we hear anything, whether it be from (the OHSAA) or from the Dr. Acton’s office about changing that date, we’re still planning on keeping our schools closed and our athletic facilities closed until then.”

Although school spring sports have already been canceled, Middletown director of athletic J.D. Foust pointed out school facilities remaining off limits reduces the options for non-scholastic teams that need a place to play.

»RELATED: DeWine sees sports coming back without fans

“We’ve been saying that all of our facilities are shut down because of the no-contact period mandated from the state and then also the OHSAA (since March), and now the governor’s kind of backtracking and saying that he wasn’t the one that mandated those facilities to be shut down and kind of thrown it on the OHSAA, who said, ‘No, it came from you,” Foust said.

“So now they’re backtracking and saying, ‘Well, it all depends on the health department in the city and then also the school.’ So we’ve been telling (youth leagues and other non-school teams) for months now that you have to get off our facility, they’re closed and it’s mandated by the governor and the OHSAA and now they’re saying, ‘Well, wait, hold on. They’re saying those facilities don’t have to shut. It’s on you guys.’ So I think there’s a lot of confusion from an athletic standpoint as far as do we open our facilities?”

He said he has been on contact with the local health department in Middletown and will continue to follow their guidance, while Dellapina said they are in no rush to re-open the facilities in Springfield as they continue to develop a list of best practices for keeping the spread of the coronavirus under control.

»CORONAVIRUS: Complete coverage

“Part of the issue for is we’re working on a skeleton crew of maintenance, custodians, stuff like that,” Dellapina said. “And I’m not convinced yet that we want to get people back in here because I don’t think we have the plan in place to ensure that the building is maintained, that social distancing is maintained. That’s all stuff that we’ve been working through in the last couple of weeks and hopefully we can come up with a couple of different scenarios as to what that looks like. If we can get people back in sooner than later, yes, I think that’s great. But I want to plan for different scenarios.”

Centerville director of athletics Rob Dement said he is glad coaches in designated sports will be able to work with their athletes soon, but he hopes the facilities question does not linger long because he is concerned that could create inequity from one district to the next.

“I am not naïve – I understand that I’m blessed to be in Centerville and as soon as this no-contact goes away, we are going to have a high percentage of athletes whose parents are going to do whatever they need to do to provide them access to training, to weight rooms, to you name it,” Dement said. “And there are going to be many districts across the state (where some parents) just don’t have those resources.

“The whole idea should be to do this in a manner that’s fair to everyone, and the way in which it’s opening up now is going to create an unfair advantage for those districts across the state who, let’s just face it, have for lack of a better word better opportunities and resources.”

All three ADs also expressed disappointment the governor’s task force put together to come up with guidelines for the return of sports did not include anyone from the OHSAA, though lieutenant governor Jon Husted told reporters Monday the OHSAA had been brought into the decision-making process to determine “protocols for training in preparation for school-sanctioned sports. We know that this school year is nearing the end, but for the athletes out there, we know that training is a year-round process.”

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