MADISON TOWNSHIP — It’s not quite business as usual for Zac Huff and his Madison girls soccer program, but it shouldn’t be long now.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced late last week practices for contact sports could begin Monday as the phased re-opening of high school athletics lurched forward amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Open fields for soccer, as well as open gyms for basketball and volleyball, are permitted provided safety procedures are followed.
Madison’s timetable isn’t quite in sync with the one provided by Gov. Mike DeWine’s office, but Huff isn’t especially worried.
“We’re still in this phase for another week where we can’t have contact,” said Huff, who led the Rams to the Division II state championship match last November.
“Each phase is supposed to last two weeks and then we have a coaches' meeting to assess where we are. We’ll have a meeting with (athletic director) Doug Rickert on Wednesday and we’ll go from there.”
Several area schools are at different points of re-opening, and language coming from the governor’s office and the Ohio High School Athletic Association has only added to the confusion. The OHSAA acknowledged as much in a memo to superintendents, principals and athletic administrators late last week.
The OHSAA recently provided guidance in a document that listed phases for re-opening sports that use school facilities. The phases Husted referenced in his announcement last week are in no way associated with the phases the OHSAA discussed in its earlier guidance document.
“If we had known the governor would release phases, we may have chosen to use a different term,” OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass said in last week’s administrator update memo. “This is important to note since these words could lead to possible confusion.”
The mixed messaging has coaches all across the area scratching their heads.
“The state said we could scrimmage, but (state officials) define a scrimmage as inter-squad and not between two schools,” said Lexington boys soccer coach Peter Them, who led the Minutemen to the Division II Final Four last fall. “We’re trying to make sure we have clarification from the state as to what is permitted and what is not.
“The interpretation of all of this is really confusing. That is the hardest part," Them said.
Despite all the confusion and delays, Huff said the Rams aren’t behind where they would normally be at this point in the preseason.
“The girls who want to get better are doing it on their own anyway,” Huff said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think the delay is hindering us too much.”
Them said every area program is dealing with the same inconveniences.
“I just feel like we’re behind, but we’re all in the same boat,” Them said. “If everyone is following the rules and doing things the right way, we’re all at the same stage.”
Practice for fall sports officially begins Aug. 1. The golf season begins four days later, while the start of the other fall sports is staggered throughout August.
“The most important thing in all of this is the safety of the players,” Them said. “We want to provide an environment that allows the kids to get back to some degree of normalcy.
“The kids just want to go out and play, but we want to make is as safe as it can be.”