When it comes to the 2020 fall sports season, ‘it’s all about the kids’

When it comes to the 2020 fall sports season, ‘it’s all about the kids’

With Gov. Mike DeWine’s blessing, Ohio high schools are now able to move forward in allowing their high school athletes to play the games they have invested so much time and effort into over the years.

While golf and tennis were under way, the governor’s commitment to allowing each school to move the direction they want to go in playing contact sports opened the door for all fall sports to take place, albeit under some strict guidelines.

With masking and social distancing in place, the governor’s mandates for attending events included each school allowing fans to attend sporting events to just 15% of its seating capacity, meaning a gymnasium that seats 1,000 people can have a total of 150 fans or a football stadium that seats 3,000 can have up to 450 people in the stands. The rules state schools must use the lesser of the 15% rule or 1,500 people outdoors and 300 visitors inside.

That puts a severe limitation on sports fans who have been longtime supporters, but Ridgewood athletic director Matt Colvin put it all in perspective as he continued preparation for the fall sports season.

“This whole time we have been asking the state to give our kids a chance to participate in the sports they love,” Colvin said. “We just wanted them to get a chance to play. That was where our focus was this whole time, and that is where our focus should be now. This isn’t about how many fans we can get into a game. It’s not about the fans, as much as we all love to watch our teams play. It is about the kids.”

Colvin said Ridgewood will face major restrictions. In volleyball the 1,350-seat gymnasium will allow for just 203 seats for fans, and that includes providing the same seating opportunities for visiting teams.

In the football stadium, the 2,100-seat capacity will allow for 315 fans in the stands.

In order to be as fair as possible, each of the 60 football players, eight cheerleaders and 35 band members will be given two vouchers apiece to give to whomever they wish. That is 218 total tickets. The visiting team will be given the same options.

Colvin said he has already heard from longtime football supporters who have season passes who may not be able to see games. While the magic number was believed to be 20% throughout the debate on the percentage of tickets allowed, the governor settled instead on 15%, and Colvin said that extra 5% makes a huge difference.

The plan from there is simple. If a person has a voucher, they may come in to watch the action. If they don’t, they are out of luck.

Even so, Colvin said people have to remember what is truly important, and sacrifices will have to be made in order to provide the student-athletes with an opportunity to play this fall and maybe even beyond.

“We want to do whatever we can to make this a memorable year for our student-athletes, and especially our seniors,” Colvin said. “If that means not being able to see them play in person, then so be it because we need to make this about our kids and giving them a chance to be successful on the field. There is nothing we can do because we are dealing with some big-time stipulations, and we want to follow the rules.”

Colvin said the world is in a bit of chaos right now for athletic directors, who are scrambling to deal with the fans in stands issue. He said many feel frustrated this decision wasn’t arrived at a couple of weeks earlier, but all will find ways to deal with the mandates sent down from above.

“We have gone about this the best way possible,” Colvin said. “We are basically building a plane while we’re flying it, but we will work within the guidelines we’ve been given to ensure the safety of our kids.”

Hiland athletic director Art Yoder said he was hoping for even more clarity, but whether people agree with what was mandated or not, schools must abide. The Perry Reese, Jr. Community Center seats 1,600 people, meaning the Hawks can host 240 fans for inside events.

That means Yoder may have to manipulate some schedules and bring middle school events into the Reese Center rather than having them in the school gymnasium, but that is a small inconvenience compared to letting kids play the games.

“Regardless of how we feel personally about all of this, our fall sports season is here, and we all have certain things we have to adhere to,” Yoder said. “Our kids can play, and that is the main thing. That hurdle is crossed, but we have to continue to be vigilant and stay on our kids and our fans and have them set good examples by being conscious about safety and health factors. We can’t take anything for granted at this point because above all we want our student-athletes to have this opportunity to play.”

Considering the fact that for months it appeared unlikely that contact sports would take place at all, the public is encouraged in the fact that the student-athletes are able to play their respective seasons.