In response to the spike in COVID-19 cases around the state over the past month, the Oregon Schools Athletics and Activities Association (OSAA) announced last week that it will further condense the competitive seasons planned for this school year — down to six weeks apiece for all sports and will move winter sports to late spring.

The latest changes shuffle the order of the three competitive sports seasons and shorten each season to about six weeks from the nine originally planned.

In its press release the OSAA wrote, “While disappointed that we need to adjust our original schedule, we believe that keeping three distinct seasons, albeit in shortened seasons, maintains potential opportunities for all students moving forward.”

Traditional “fall” sports of soccer and cross country will begin official practices on February 22, while volleyball, as an indoor sport, will only take place if the virus diminishes enough for the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to give the green light. As a full contact sport, football falls into the prohibited category until further notice as well.

The fall sports will conclude by April 11.

The next season on the calendar, beginning practice April 5, will feature traditional “spring” sports, including golf, baseball, softball, tennis, and track and field. This season will conclude by May 23.

The final season of the year, starting May 10, features “winter” sports including basketball, wrestling, and swimming. The rationale of having indoor sports later in the year stems from the hope that indoor activities will be able to resume by that point. This season will run through June 27.

At this point, state playoffs and championships remain in the plans.

Sisters High School Athletic Director Gary Thorson understands the move, but wishes the circumstances could work out better for student athletes.

“I am sure all of the athletes and coaches are disappointed that the seasons were pushed back and shortened once again but under the circumstances it was the best option,” he said. “No one wants to see anybody lose a season again like last spring, and this gives all the sports the best chances for getting the chance to compete. As I talk with our coaches and other coaches and athletic directors around the state, the consensus is something is better than nothing and everyone will do what they can to give our kids a great experience.”

There are challenges woven into the new calendar, including dealing with weather conditions in Sisters Country. For example, cross country and soccer might be battling significant winter conditions at the start of their season.

Thorson, as a coach himself, understands the challenges as well as anyone and hopes everyone can continue to make the best of a very difficult situation.

He said, “This is very hard on everyone involved in our programs as well as the parents, but again we have to keep reminding ourselves delayed and shortened sport seasons pale in comparison to other things that people are going through right now.”

Thorson doesn’t want to see kids walk away from sports because of the constant changes and shortened seasons, especially because athletics is one way for kids to cope with the social and emotional challenges everyone is facing due to restrictions that have dated back to last March. He said that training, following local OHA guidelines, is still allowed through that start of the “fall” season in February.

Sisters remains in the red zone per OHA, which is the most restricted level when it comes to safe-training guidelines. According to Thorson, coaches are contacting team members to help them understand what is available and allowed.

“All of the kids in our district are hurting without school as well and we need to turn the corner on this whole thing as soon as we can,” he said. “I want to see kids join teams and be involved. For the sake of our kids, I hope people in our community and leaders throughout the state will do their part in helping to get the kids back in the classrooms and on the fields.”

The OSAA also governs activities including choir and band competitions and has not defined those seasons. The executive board is delaying that decision in the hope that students will be allowed to be indoors in time to prepare and complete a season in the final part of the school year.