Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, high school sports have pressed forward in Oklahoma. The football season is at roughly the midway point, and playoffs are beginning in other sports.
It hasn’t come without incident. School districts have had to cancel games each week. Nevertheless, sports have been able to continue.
David Jackson, executive director of the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA), said he is excited for the upcoming state championships.
“We didn’t know at the beginning of the school year if we could get to the end of any season, and with COVID numbers doing what they’re doing, it’s really been a challenge,” Jackson said. “Kudos to the schools for all the work they’ve done to try to stay healthy and manage their situations on a local level. Without that, we wouldn’t be able to conduct any championships, but the schools have really been diligent in trying to manage their situations, and we certainly want to commend them for the work they’ve done.”
Jackson said about 85 to 90% of scheduled football games have taken place, though it has been a challenge with students, coaches and teachers testing positive. He said he hates some games have had to be canceled, but its unavoidable.
Guthrie has been no exception. The Blue Jays’ games against Piedmont and Carl Albert were canceled. The game against Woodward this weekend was pushed to Saturday.
The OSSAA is attempting to ensure necessary cancellations don’t harm a school’s season any more than necessary.
“We’re trying to make sure that those teams that are having to cancel because of COVID are not penalized because of that,” Jackson said. “There is no perfect policy that we can put together to address and make better all these different scenarios that are occurring, but we certainly didn’t want a school that couldn’t participate because of having to be quarantined and having positive cases, we didn’t want them to be penalized.”
As for the playoffs, there is the ever-present threat that a team could be unable to play a scheduled postseason game. While the OSSAA doesn’t want to penalize a team in terms of qualifying for the playoffs, it could be a different scenario once the playoffs begin.
“Unless it was multiple teams that were impacted, that couldn’t play, we’re probably going to go on,” Jackson said. “If it’s one team that can’t play because of the virus, we’re going to move forward in most cases, and we’ve notified the schools that… I don’t know that we would hold up the entire classification for that.”
Fall sports are not the only thing on Jackson’s mind. For now, the OSSAA is planning to move forward with winter sports as scheduled. Jackson said there are additional challenges to holding indoor events, but the schools believe they can manage it given the proper guidance.
“We’re going to give it a shot,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of states around us that have put a lot of their winter activities off to the spring, and we considered that. But as we talked to some of the medical experts, what we found is none of them can point to anything that tells us that the spring is going to be any better than it is in the fall, so we’re going to give it a shot to have our winter activities, to at least get them started, and let’s see how it goes from there.”