Sisters High School football players, coaches and fans got a welcome message last Friday, when Governor Kate Brown announced that outdoor contact sports for the upcoming “fall” season will be allowed for many teams in Oregon, including Sisters.

Not surprisingly, there are strings attached, including the need to offer on-site responsive testing for symptomatic individuals and close contacts, protocols in place for contact-tracing purposes, and written waivers identifying health and safety risks, as well as a commitment to isolation and quarantine if exposed to COVID-19. 

Schools, like Sisters, that have returned to in-person instruction are eligible to begin, but because Deschutes County remains in the “High Risk” category, the requirements listed above are mandatory.

Gary Thorson, SHS athletic director and co-head football coach, ended the week with a smile upon hearing the news. 

“We plan to play football here in Sisters at both the middle-school and high-school levels but are just waiting on a few things from the Oregon Health Authority and the OSAA,” he said. 

Brown included in her press release a firm message about her desire to keep schools and sports open in Oregon, saying, “To all of Oregon’s high school athletes: I am asking you now to be leaders in your communities. We’ve given you the chance to play, but with that opportunity comes great responsibility. If COVID-19 numbers spike, we may have to shut down contact sports again. When you are off the field, set the example for your peers: wear a mask, maintain physical distance, and avoid social gatherings.” 

The realities of causing a spike hit close to home last week as Summit High School, which had just returned to in-person instruction, had to shut down after more than a dozen COVID-19 cases were recorded among students who had attended a large “super-spreader” get-together. 

Until further protocols are in place to meet the new standards, the SHS football team will continue non-contact training along with other sports, including soccer and cross country, all of which begin an official “fall” season Monday, February 22. 

The high school volleyball team is allowed to conduct indoor practices with masks and will begin competition against Oregon West Converence teams and some regional squads during the upcoming season. However, no fans will be allowed at games for the time being, according to Thorson.