While the world eagerly awaits the return of sports, roughly 350,000 high school student-athletes statewide are also feeling sidelined by COVID-19 cancellations.

Jerry Snodgrass, executive director of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), joined the Virtual Sports Report, presented by Marathon, to talk about those athletes, his outlook on future seasons and how the organization has been working alongside officials to adapt and give guidance.Virtual Sports Report presented by Marathon Logo

“That’s been the challenge for our staff, is to be on the fly and be ready when any of these changes occur,” Snodgrass said.

At the onset of the pandemic, OHSAA first faced the difficult decision of altering its annual winter state tournaments in mid-March. As safety concerns heightened, the organization made the difficult choice to postpone, and later cancel, the winter state tournaments for the safety of students, coaches and fans.

As spring sports were approaching and the public safety concerns rose, OHSAA was forced to join sports leagues across the nation in announcing continued cancellations.

“Whether it’s me, whether it’s the NCAA, whether it’s the respective conferences in the NCAA that had to make decisions at the time… we knew, collectively that they were not popular,” Snodgrass said.

Since making those tough decisions, OHSAA has navigated the pandemic within the boundaries set by the Governor’s office and Ohio Department of Health, providing guidance to government officials and schools to get student-athletes safely back to play.

With the announcement that certain non-contact youth sports are permitted to resume, with guidelines, in late May, Snodgrass has been focused on communicating with member schools to understand precautions.

“Our job has been to provide guidance to those sports that have been permitted, and now move on from there and give that guidance to do it safely,” Snodgrass said.

While Snodgrass acknowledged that he is an “eternal optimist” about sports resuming in the fall, he stressed the importance of understanding the preparations required to safely resume high school sports.

“Never, ever will I suggest something that compromises the safety and health of the coaches, the players and anyone else who is allowed to be involved,” Snodgrass said. “That is still the overriding factor on any recommendation I give to the Governor.”

Despite the pause in play, the OHSAA has stayed true to its mission of enriching opportunities for student-athletes. By launching a statewide social media campaign called #howicompete, the organization is encouraging student-athletes to share photos and videos of how they’re staying positive and continuing to train during the pandemic.

Most importantly, the organization stays dedicated to being a resource to member institutions during the unprecedented time. 

“I think a lot of people think that in the sports world with no sports, that nothing is going on,” Snodgrass said. “It’s been the opposite for us. It’s been challenging, but at the same time, it’s what we signed up to do.”

You can watch the recorded episode and learn about upcoming Virtual Sports Report episodes here.