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State of Ohio Prep Sports

Middletown’s decision to not only go all online, but now suspend all athletics raises major questions. Will other schools follow suit based on pressure, or will the powers to be force them? Sadly enough, the largest question unanswered is the biggest one.

Who’s making these major decisions, and what data are they using?

First, I’m going to lean heavily on discussing essentially nothing but facts and clearly stated inferences. Of course my bias of opinion will show through in part. I don’t pretend to be a journalist, english major, or epidemiologist but I’m fairly well studied, knowledgeable and have thought deeply about this situation.

Let’s get started. Simply put, we need a clear leader in the return to sports campaign. Right now it seems like a skit of “Who’s on First”. Is it the OHSAA, Dewine, Superintendents, County Health Boards, Athletic Directors? Let’s break this all down. First, lets get something out of the way.

First Problem

The biggest disappointment in our efforts to find a plan is… we don’t have one. Or at least, they have not been shared with the public. Instead of diving into the numbers, and speaking directly on them, we just say … #WearAMask and #IWantASeason. No offense, but we need direct clear goals and statistics. How refreshing would it be if Govenor Dewine or Lt. John Husted made it public of their statistics they desire for the return of sports? Let’s set the goal posts clearly, and let us try to successfully make it. Give us exact numbers. However, this all very well may be a tactic of delaying decisions to force someone other than the governors office to make it? We will get to this later.

OHSAA

The OHSAA has clearly shown their cards. They are not cancelling sports under any circumstances right now. However, they are clearly under the thumb of the Governor Office. Ultimately, the OHSAA is powerless at this point, and their financial dismay has them strongly holding onto the idea of proceeding with all 10 fall tournaments. Unfortunately, the idea of all 10 fall sports going off without a hitch is about as realistic as a shot clock being implemented this upcoming season. Not happening.

The firing of Jerry Snodgrass did raise a lot of eyebrows. Of course I’m not certain of the exact details, but in my estimations, Jerry had a plan in which was going to cause some real financial issues. I’m speculating Snodgrass was in favor of moving the fall season to spring, and perhaps spring to the fall. I’m guessing members of the board felt like the financial impact of this would require major cuts, so they carried on without him. It’s hard to fault the OHSAA considering they have made their situation clear. They want to play. I do wish they would have flipped fall/spring seasons a month ago. Worst case if fall still goes south with “spring sports” they can proceed again with season in Spring 2021. I’ll get into this plan later. Let’s stay on track. So right now, the ball is in Dewine’s court…or is it.

Athletic Directors

Lost in all this shuffle is the absolute nightmare this has become for Athletic Directors. After meeting with a dozen athletic directors office within the past week, the undisputed desire is to get back to competition. The lack of specific requirements has also required exhausting hypothetical planning. For instance, many athletic directors have prepared for electronic ticketing, stadium capacity layouts, and social distance plans… all of which have taken weeks to plan, just for the possibility of mandated orders.

Their main focus however, was clearly the kids.

Ross Athletic Director Jake Richards

“Education-based sports play such a meaningful role in so many people’s lives, and we’ve got to figure out how to give kids a safe and stable opportunity to participate… Given sensible guidelines to follow, we’ll follow them to give our kids a chance.”

He mentioned something very important. A “safe and stable” place to play. We will get into this shortly. Let’s stay on track.

Lakota East Athletic Director Richard Bryant

“It is the hardest on the kids. Not knowing is difficult. However, to have a season cancelled is much worse. I know I speak for my counterparts in the GMC, (Greater Miami Conference) we just need a chance to show this can be done safely.”

Hamilton Assistant Athletic Director & Head Football Coach Nate Mahon

“These are unprecedented times. I think it’s time to start considering unprecedented ideas to give our kids an opportunity. We need some guidance from the state. We then can plan accordingly before ideas that would have worked, no longer will, due to lost time.”

It’s clear the AD’s will do anything to give their student-athletes a chance to compete. So there shouldn’t be concerns of protocols not being followed by mandated rules. Question still remains, who’s making the rules?

City/County Health Officials

Wild enough, this seems to be where we sit. No solidarity voice for all, and something in which seems like the wild wild west. Unless the governors office steps up, 88 county health boards are making decisions for better or worse on high school sports. I’m not sure if Dewine devised the plan to deliberately plead the fifth, but the line in the sand is here, and the County Health Boards are making decisions for our youth sports. However, it begs the question, wheres the data to require shutdowns?

Clear Data

Enter the data. Here’s a chart of deaths over the course of the pandemic.

Do you see this? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the trend here. Without going down a rabbit hole, theres plenty of reasons as to why the deaths are plummeting.

  • Better treatment
  • Severe spread occurred before isolation, and risk populations have been infected and passed away in April/March.
  • High risk populations have since stayed isolated
  • Low Risk populations (70 years and younger) have fought virus successfully (Increase Cases, yet deaths continue to plummet)

Here’s the sad part. According. to a CDC study, 22% of children living at the poverty line have mental health issues. Yet, here we are taking away structure, and social interactions at physical school for a virus that poses less of a threat than the common flu for school aged children in a district as of 2018 that had 100% of their student population eligible for free and reduced lunch.

https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html

So when do we start holding these decision makers accountable for the adverse affects of taking kids out of school, and extra curricular activities? Anxiety of being home alone, without instruction, and negative peer pressure is hard to put on a spreadsheet isn’t it.

I’m not suggesting the virus isn’t a concern, but I am certainly stating the data clearly shows its far more damaging for children to be out of school with no activities than the threat of COVID-19 for kids.

The Reality

The virus is not going anywhere. The data has been steady for the past two months, and Dewine should have an answer on what an acceptable statistical level of hospitalizations and deaths needed to return to school and sports competition. Can we just get a universal plan?

Plan

Many might tend to believe I’m bias towards the idea of our business being financially dependent on high school sports. It’s not. My mental health is though. I might not fall into the demographic of severe mental depression, but sports is a large part of my life… as it is for many others. I’d like to consider myself a very level headed, and thoughtful person. I pride myself on understanding both sides, and making rational, educated decisions. I’ve always said, if you’re going to complain, you better have a solution. So here is mine. Let’s meet in the middle on this.

Fall Sports will consist of Soccer, Cross Country, Track, Golf, and Tennis. Soccer is spread out significantly, and poses a much less threat than Volleyball. I’m not sure who is making the rules on contact vs non contact but perhaps they needed their coffee. So Volleyball is on the move, Cross Country and Soccer are in, Track moves to fall.

I am not flipping all spring seasons due to the fact it is quite unfair to the Spring sports to lose their season, and then move it around for sports that have not been cancelled once. Seems too late in the game for this now.

Fall sports start on time and end on time. I know, Football. It needs to be played. It has to be played. Fall is not the time. The powers to be have not shown enough confidence for me to risk playing in the fall. Politically, ethically, whatever you want to call it, I don’t see it happening in this social climate. So make the adjustment to benefit the kids.

Winter Sports. We will have a vaccine, and the political climate of this virus will be null void with major concern come December. Girls Volleyball, Boys and Girls Basketball, Bowling, and Wrestling will start December 1st. The season will conclude late March.

Spring Sports. Football, Baseball, Softball. I get it… it’s tough. Never done before. However, if you want football, here it is.

All regular spring sports go off as normal.

Football starts camp in mid February, with scrimmages mid march and first game on March 26th. Final Regular Season- May 28th. State Championship on June 25th. Coaches are going to have to work hard for Multi sport athletes for one year. It’s either that, or the chance of little to no football in fall. Seems to be wise to make exceptions for one season.

2021 Fall camp starts August 14th, (50 Days rest minimum or State Final teams) and first game is September 10th, 2021.

Final Thoughts

We have a lot of great leaders of young men, and women waiting to be lead in some sort of a direction. Unfortunately, so far it’s been a pull string display of answers. Some days I’m waiting for “Theres a snake in my boot” to accidentally come out of a decision makers mouth. Recycle and repeat phrases, and no substance updates.

It’s time for decision making, and clear reasoning with data driven results to support it. So far, we have decisions without any substance to support it.

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