The OSAA (Oregon Scholastic Activities Association) announced a big change to the 2020-21 high school sports seasons in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision came following an executive session on Wednesday, August 5.

In essence there will be three seven-week competitive seasons within a truncated 6-1/2-month time period between December and June.

The OSAA actually defined four “seasons” under the plan: “Season One” from August 31-January 3 will be considered a time that high school students could be allowed to take part in sports and activities not overseen by the OSAA, but approved by the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Education, the Governor’s Office and local school districts. In other words, it may be possible that a club sport, for example, will be allowed under specific guidelines. Conditioning and training during this period, conducted by coaches, would be allowed but cannot be considered mandatory.

Gary Thorson, athletic director and head football coach for Sisters High School, is hopeful some activities will be possible in the fall.

“The 800-pound COVID gorilla needs to be dealt with before we get too excited about what we can and can’t do during that (Season One) time period, but if and when we get a green light from the state and district our athletes and coaches will be active,” he said. “We have been very limited to what we can and can’t do, but if things open up to the point that we can have scrimmages and competition with local schools we will, for sure. We want all our kids safely competing and getting things back to normal ASAP, all the way down to the youth level. We need everything back — band, choir, all the art activities. I am looking forward to seeing our community getting out of this mess we are in.”

He added, “We will learn more about what we can do in the fall in the next few weeks.”

Under the plan, “Season Two” is when OSAA competitions will begin, on December 28, with the traditional winter sports, including basketball, wrestling and swimming. Those sports will conclude the first week of March.

Next up in “Season Three” will be traditional “fall” sports — cross country, football, soccer, and volleyball — which will run from February 22 to late April with some championships dipping into the first week of May. “Season Four” including traditional spring sports — track and field, baseball, softball, tennis and golf — will finish out the year, running from April 19 to as late as June 26.

Thorson was not surprised by the OSAA’s decision.

“It was pretty much what most of us expected them to do. There is no perfect plan when you have to face what we are facing today, and while there are challenges to face in this plan I think the OSAA did a good job on it,” he said.

While Thorson likes the hope of having sports back, he knows that the plan will bring new challenges.

“The overlaps will be tough on the athletes and coaches that are falling into back-to-back seasons and I have some concerns about snow and facilities for the fall sports and the time they are being played,” he said. “We will find a way and get creative in dealing with these and other issues. We have been resilient to smoke and snow in the past and we will maneuver this as well.”

Championship formats and specific dates have not yet been finalized according to the OSAA’s press release.

Activities under the OSAA umbrella including dance and drill, cheerleading, band, choir, and speech that do not fall under these established seasons will also have championship dates designated in the near future.

A complete document detailing each season’s plan along with other information is available on the OSAA website, which is available at www.osaa.org.