The New OSAA Schedule is Out, What Does it Mean? (Part Two)

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The Bowl style ending to football, problem number one to the OSAA’s new schedule, was a salad.

Potential problem number two is the (potential) meat and potatoes. 

2 – Complete chaos from September to December (season one in the OSAA’s new schedule). This paragraph of the OSAA’s media release is one that might get brushed over by most, but could have absolutely gigantic ramifications not just in the 2021 winter-spring sports season, but for years to come:

“The OSAA Association Year will officially begin on August 31 in Season 1 where policies restricting out-of-season coaching have been removed. This allows member school students and coaches, at the discretion of the local school district, to participate in any OSAA-sanctioned activity permitted by directives from the Governor’s Office, OHA and ODE. This participation may include conditioning, practices and interscholastic competitions in those permitted activities provided schools adhere to OSAA policies”

Normally, each season has their designated formal practice window. You practice basketball in the winter, softball in the spring, cross country in the fall. There’s a segregation between sports within the school year that is necessary from the OSAA’s perspective in order to not only incentivise multi-sport participation, but to limit external bodies like AAU from pressuring athletes to specialize at a higher rate than is already happening. The summer is generally a free-for-all: you can have summer basketball tournaments, summer baseball, and some schools (especially at the 1A level) historically have had summer football scrimmages against other nearby teams. There are regulations in place that ensure kids don’t get overworked, especially football players, but generally the OSAA is hands-off from the middle of June until the end of July. This comes with one HUGE exception.

High school coaches (varsity head coach or otherwise) aren’t allowed to coach an AAU team, 7 on 7 team, club baseball team, or any other kind of club sport not directly tied to a member school with more than two athletes from that coach’s school on the club roster. That’s confusing, but here’s what it means:

If an AAU team was organized in the Rainier/Longview area, Doug Knox (long time Rainier girls basketball coach) couldn’t coach that team during the fall or spring if it had more than two Rainier girls on the roster. Since basketball is a winter sport, the fall and spring are off limits, while summer isn’t. This protects athletes from many things; arguably most important of which are the pressures of specialization. 

The paragraph from the OSAA media release mentioned above creates a “wild-west” like atmosphere starting August 31st. For all intents and purposes, it’s a free-for-all.

The thought process as to why the OSAA executive committee would remove the out-of-season coaching regulation is simple: there’s technically no ‘season’ happening for any sport. Since that’s the case, why not let coaches and players work in an organized setting under the school’s guidance? The problem is not that kids can now have organized team activities with coaches and have something going on to fill the void of inactivity; it’s that all sports are now open at once. The segregation of seasons doesn’t exist now. Theoretically, an athlete could end up competing in three different sports at once in this time frame due to pressures from coaches to “get work in” during this new extended off season. 

Let’s use Yamhill-Carlton as an example. The boys basketball program is on the rise, but the football program has a territorial claim to practicing in the fall whereas basketball doesn’t. If organized activities are being conducted for both, what is an athlete to do? Technically, basketball season will come up first, but is it wise to allow yourself only two weeks to get ready for a football game? Wouldn’t it make sense to be practicing during the fall if possible? With school starting, it’s not likely any athlete will be able to do multiple non-spring sports at once—being a track athlete and baseball/softball player simultaneously is common—which inevitably will force the hand of not just the athlete: the coaches will have to either fight over facilities, time, and kids, or concede that one has precedence over the other.

Having a summer free-for-all is okay for the few months of summer that go generally unregulated by the OSAA, as there are general agreed upon time frames for when some sports happen and others don’t, but taking that same Laissez-faire attitude and extending it to a total of almost seven months is quite something else. 

Schools in this new set up could theoretically put all their eggs in one basket and reap huge rewards. A school like Heppner (who is highly competitive at other sports, but everything pales in comparison to football there), could put all its time and effort into football, spending months on the field preparing for March. Basketball and baseball in this scenario would suffer, but for a school that is chasing a state championship in one sport in particular and not others, doesn’t it make sense for those athletes to spend their time where it could have the most consequential impact? In this same scenario, where in any normal circumstances Heppner and Umatilla would’ve spent the same amount of time preparing for football, Heppner could have multiple months of extra preparation time spent in comparison if Umatilla opted to put all their eggs into basketball. 

It’s Game Theory. I’m going to assume the worst in my opponent, and act accordingly towards what I can accomplish regardless of what they pursue. Heppner knows its best shot is in football; Umatilla’s likely is in basketball (going off historical precedent). Wouldn’t specialization now be *accidently* encouraged?

Mazama with football; Klamath Union with boys basketball. Valley Catholic with Volleyball; Astoria with girls basketball. The interleague contradictions go on and on.

This is a slippery slope argument, I know. But after all, everything has been left to interpretation and speculation. It’s not out of bounds to run through the thought experiment we just did. It’s a possible outcome.

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