OHIO VALLEY — Hard work, hand washing, and hope, the realities of preparing for a fall sports season in 2020.
The OHSAA practice period opened on Aug. 1, and competition still in question for many fall sports, many in Gallia County prepare for a season they just hope to be a part of.
Gallia Academy has fielded over-125 varsity athletes across the platforms of football, volleyball, soccer, golf and cross country in each of the last two seasons. GAHS athletic director Adam Clark talked about what each athlete is going through as they arrive at practice this year.
“When the kids come in, whether it’s the locker room, the gym, or the soccer field, they have to have their mask on,” Clark said. “We check their temperature, and they’re asked a series of questions, if they’ve had a fever, if they’ve been around anyone with COVID, just a check sheet they have to fill out every time that they come in. If they answer yes to any of the questions, they have to quarantine at that time.”
Players are able to remove their masks during weight lifting and on-field workouts, but coaches keep their masks on for the entire practice.
“Our coaches have been on board,” said Clark. “They’re willing to do whatever is in the guidelines to try to keep everyone safe and healthy, and they’re willing to do anything they can to play this season.”
At River Valley — where the football program had 38 players a year ago and 44 in 2018 — third-year head football coach Jason Peck is aiming to keep his team in good spirits and hopes for at least some kind of season.
“Overall, the biggest part that concerns us is whether we’re having a season or not,” Peck said. “You have to keep morale up and keep the kids positive, and when they see other districts or other states cancelling sports, they have all these questions. The reality is, we’re able to practice and do most things right now, so its not been as big of a change as what you might think. We’re still hammering hard, the kids out there are excited, and we’re playing hard.
“I think they’ll try to get out a full schedule in the state of Ohio. Will it be pushed back? Who knows. Will we have a game get cancelled because a team we’re ready to play tests positive? Yeah, I think that’s going to happen no matter what. We’re just going to prepare and hope we get some in, some is better than none. If we have a full schedule and we only get seven, we’re blessed, we only get five, we’re still blessed to just have the opportunity to play some football games. The kids have been working for 2.5 months, and my view right now, if we try to tell them no after all the work they’ve put in, it’s going to be hard for them to swallow. It’s kind of like giving them false hope if we cancel on them now.”
While some sports wait to see if the season starts on time, the OHSAA golf season officially began on Wednesday. For Gallia Academy — which tees it up for the first time on Thursday (today) in Scioto County — eighth-year head golf coach Mark Allen has a roster of 35 strong and talked some of the changes made on the course.
“The thing with golf, we can still enjoy our game,” Allen said. “Being socially distanced doesn’t change the nature of our game. About any other sport is difficult to not be around somebody, but in golf we can distance ourselves and still enjoy it.
“With qualifying today, we talked about social distancing on the course, and we had them leave the flag stick in. Normally when they come in we have them check each other’s score cards, and today we did that verbally. I know we’re going to a tournament on Thursday at Portsmouth where normally we’d be mixed in with other teams, but we’re actually going play with our team completely together.”
Other changes to golf include no awards ceremonies, limited numbers on the practice greens and driving ranges, as well as some tournaments switching to a tee-time format to start.
Also starting up competition, volleyball — which is set to begin the season on Aug. 21 — is still permitting five scrimmages and one preview before then.
“Now, it can change any minute, we know that, but it looks like volleyball season will be played as normal,” Clark said. “We still have a question on fans, and what that can look like if they’re allowed to be there, but they’re allowed to do scrimmages, where football and soccer can only practice and have inter-squad scrimmages at this time.”
With all contact sports requiring a COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to competition, athletic departments are still left with more questions than answers.
“One issue with that is financial,” Clark said. “Who’s going to pay for that? We have a possibility of shortened seasons, and the possibility of restricting the number of fans, which will affect our gate. And on top of that, we have to add the expense of the tests. Where’s that funding going to come from? Those are questions we all need answered. That’s part of it, the other side is that the COVID test is painful, and I’m not in favor of putting our kids through that 72 hours prior to every game. We want to do everything we can to play, but within reason.”
The soccer season is slated to join volleyball with an Aug. 21 start date, while regular seasons for football and cross country are currently scheduled to begin on Aug. 24.
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Alex Hawley is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, reach him at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.