Lebanon high schools starting sports but a lot will be practice

By Scott Swanson
Lebanon Local

Fall sports are not in the cards for local high schools, per Oregon School Activities Association mandate, but that doesn’t mean athletes are sitting idle at Lebanon High School and East Linn Christian Academy.
OSAA announced last month that it has opted to schedule truncated winter, fall and spring seasons – in that order – with actual contests starting in the new calendar year and running through late June.
Under the new schedule, the winter sports of basketball, wrestling and swimming can begin official practices Dec. 28, with their first contests Jan. 11 and culminating week March 1-7. Basketball teams will have 14-game regular seasons.
The fall sports of football, soccer, volleyball and cross country can start practicing Feb. 22 and will play their first contests March 8. All have culminating weeks of April 26 through May 2, except for football, which extends to May 3-9. Football will have a seven-game regular season.
The spring sports of baseball, softball, track, golf and tennis will begin practices April 19, play their first contests starting May 3 and have culminating weeks June 21-27. Baseball and softball teams will have 18-game regular seasons.
All of this is predicated on COVID-19 guidance from the Governor’s Office and Oregon Health Authority. According to current state rules, schools can’t open for in-person learning until the statewide COVID-19 testing rate is at or below 5 percent for three consecutive weeks and, locally, there are 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 people in a seven-day period.
In addition, counties must meet benchmarks to open their schools. For three weeks in a row, they must have 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 over a seven-day period and a test positivity rate of 5.0 percent or below over a seven-day period.
The period between Aug. 31 and Dec. 27 has been dubbed Season 1. During that time sports and activities will be under the discretion of local schools and districts, and will be permitted, provided they fall in line with guidance from the Governor’s Office and OHA. OSAA policies regarding out-of-season coaching limitations will not apply, although other OSAA policies will remain in effect.
Warriors Athletic Director Kraig Hoene said LHS is planning to hold consistent practices in all sports during that time, on a rotating basis. The Warriors will not be competing against other schools, he said.
“The kids are pretty much going to work out during the fall. We’ve developed a rotation so no kids gets more than one coach on any given day.”
The way it works, one season’s sports will practice Mondays and Thursdays, and another will practice Tuesdays and Fridays. The following week, the third season will practice, along with one of the others, and on the third week the rotation will be completed.
“Essentially, every three weeks is a cycle,” Hoene said.
That system will enable each Warrior coach to see athletes in his or her sport on a regular basis, he said.
Hoene said he likes the system because if the winter season begins on Dec. 27 as scheduled, coaches will have had extended connection with athletes as the end of the first semester approaches.
“All of these kids are still going to have to maintain 2.5 GPAs,” he said. “Some schools are doing (workouts) month by month, but the problem is that if a kid is a spring athlete only, coaches will have no connection with that kid and if he’s so far behind, he won’t be eligible.
“This way coaches will have contact with kids and can keep track of kids academically and get help for them if they need it.”
He said Lebanon isn’t going to hold scrimmage-type unofficial contests with other teams because of the risk.
“There’s no way I feel good about contact when we don’t know what we’re bringing onto campus,” Hoene said.
At East Linn, which started in-class school on Sept. 8, but immediately shut down due to the fires, Athletic Director Kellen Peters said the staff was still figuring things out during the first week.
“As soon as we get the go-ahead from the administration, we’re planning to get some practicing in,” he said. “We plan on starting (sports) in the next week or so, assuming there’s no smoke.”
He said that if other schools are interested, the Eagles are willing to compete, per OSAA rules, which include that any high school competition have certified officials, even if it’s just a friendly.
“Our soccer coach is interested in getting some games going. We have at least one school that’s interested in playing us,” said Peters, adding that the cross-country runners he coaches himself have worked out all summer and are raring to go as well – “they want to run some races.”
He said high school volleyball “is really up in the air” due to OSAA rules that require facemasks and other precautions for indoor sports.
Middle-schoolers, who are not governed by the OSAA, have more freedom to compete and Peters said he’s hoping to get some soccer and volleyball games organized against opponents who are willing.