The Ohio High School Football Coaches Association (OHSFCA) sent a return-to-play proposal to its head coaches Tuesday afternoon, outlining how Ohio high school football can return this fall in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The (OHSFCA) has a mission to promote the sport of football by recommending the use of the safest, most medically sound and best practices in teaching skills to athletes,” the OHSFCA said in a written opening statement. “It is our belief that the mental health of the young men who play football can be negatively affected by eliminating football for 2020.”
In its proposal, the OHSFCA lays out how players, coaches and fans would operate during practices, games and travel while working with local health departments.
For games, athletes, coaches and other staff will have temperatures taken by staff on game day and at every practice, while also filling out a coronavirus symptom questionnaire. Fans would also have their temperatures taken as they enter.
Players or other staff must not exhibit symptoms within 72 hours of the start of the game in order to play, while if a fan shows symptoms the day-of, the fan must stay home.
Also, if an athlete, coach or other team member tests positive, they’d be required to tell the other athletes and their parents immediately and any opposing team within three days of the individual experiencing symptoms.
The team with a positive test would also need to take daily in-person temperature checks before participation in practices and games for at least 14 days following the positive test.
Other on-the-field measures include each team sanitizing its footballs as often as possible, an extended team sideline that’d be within the 10-yard lines instead of the 25-yard lines, coaches meeting their players at the bottom of the letters on the field during timeouts while socially distancing and players sanitizing their hands at every timeout.
The OHSFCA also said halftimes would reduce from 20 minutes to 12, along with a break every six minutes of game clock instead of every 12 and a running clock enacted if both head coaches agree at the beginning of the game. Social distancing would also be enacted on the bench.
Dressing in locker rooms would be done in groups, while visiting teams would also try to travel dressed or at least carry their own shoulder pads, helmets and cleats.
Locker room usage in general would be kept at a minimum, with instances like pregame medical attention, bathroom breaks and hazardous weather as outliers.
Fans would sit in every third row and need to wear a mask, with few exceptions, like facial coverings being banned by law or regulation in the setting, are in violation of documented industry standards, for health reasons or violation of safety policies.
Players and coaches on buses would be required to sit one to a seat, with masks on, in accordance with the Ohio Department of Health’s transportation policy, with athletes traveling separately would have to be dropped off at a designated area.
For practices, players would practice in specified groups for no more than nine minutes at a time. During the preseason, there would be only one nine-minute session of full contact offense and defense per day. That would be moved to two sessions each for two days a week for the regular season
And with this, the OHSFCA is willing to work with the OHSAA and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to make any changes necessary to ensure high school football is played this year.
“We understand the important work being done to protect all Ohioans, and we present this as a working document that may require additional action,” the OHSFCA said, “and the (OHSFCA) stands ready to work with the Governor, his task force, and the (OHSAA) to ensure a high school football season this fall in our great state.”