The Ohio High School Athletic Association released more information about the upcoming 2020 fall sports season.

The organization put out its ‘Return to Play Guidelines’ as well as sport specific recommendations on Wednesday.

The return to play recommendations were sent out to OHSAA member schools. The document notes that the recommendation are with support from among others, the National Federation of State High School Associations, the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Lt. Governor’s Office.

The OHSAA is still planning on fall sports practices opening up as scheduled on Aug. 1, pending final approval from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office on contact sports.

Among some of the recommendations were that teams should maintain physical distance when not on the court or field, as well as wearing face coverings when not competing.

An acknowledgement and pledge form was also posted that student athletes and parents/guardians will sign before competing in a sport.

The specific sport recommendations are for football, cross country, field hockey, golf, soccer, tennis and volleyball.

All sports are recommended to limit interactions such as attendees to pregame meetings with officials that occur in nearly every athletic competition.

In volleyball, the coin tosses are recommended to be suspended, with the visiting team taking the serve in the first set.

Another volleyball recommendation is to suspend the regular practice of switching bench areas between sets, as teams will likely play on the same side of the net for an entire match.

A lot of the football recommendations are similar to the ones made by the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association. The team boxes would extend 80 yards from 10-yard line to 10-yard line, with social distancing practiced by the players.

It is recommended that officials have as little contact with the football as possible. Players will take the football to the huddle with them, while the umpire will place a bean bag at the spot of the ball.

In soccer, the World Cup introduction line is recomended to be suspending, with players going directly to the field.

Cross country represents different challenges, as runners often are grouped close together on the courses, especially at the start line and the finish. The recommendations are to widen courses by at least six feet at the narrowest point. Staggered starts should also be considered.

The COVID-19 pandemic halted high school sports in Ohio on March 12, ahead of the winter state tournaments of basketball and wrestling. Those tournaments were suspended before ultimately being canceled. The spring season saw the same fate, initially being pushed back to a later date before being canceled on April 20.

Non-contact sports such as baseball and softball have occurred since June in non-team sports. AAU basketball tournaments have also occurred, given hope that the fall season will take place.

A recent spike in cases over the month of July has caused questions about the future of sports in general. The Lancaster Eagle-Gazette reported on Thursday that the Fairfield County Health Department is recommending that all Fairfield County Schools not return to in-person classes in the fall, as well as school sports, band and other extra-curricular activities not be played.

Athens County has been deemed a ‘Level 3’ county by the governor’s office for the last two weeks. As a result, Athens, Alexander, Federal Hocking and Trimble all temporarily suspended sports training and practices. As of Friday, all Athens County schools were set to return to the athletic fields or courts on Monday in preparation for a potential season.

Unless delays occur, the official start of competitions for each sport are Aug. 5 for golf, Aug. 7 for girls’ tennis, Aug. 21 for volleyball and soccer, Aug. 24 for cross country, and the weekend of Aug. 27 through 29 for football.

Email at kwiseman@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @KevinWmessenger

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