McAlester prepares for OSSAA decision on return to sports

DEREK HATRIDGE | Staff photoMcAlester athletic director John Homer speaks during a Meet the Spring Coaches event in March. Homer said he and the various Buffs coaches have multiple plans in place pending a decision on returning to summer sports from the OSSAA.

With the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association targeting June 1 to allow members to resume organized athletics activities, McAlester Public Schools wants to make sure it's ready for any decision.

McAlester athletic director John Homer said that he told all district coaches to make their routine schedules — just in case the athletics governing body allows athletics to start again amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"All our coaches have made plans for summer,” Homer said. "I told them back in spring 'you need to plan for summer like it’s a normal summer. If they tell us we can’t, it’s a whole lot easier to cancel stuff.”

Since March 25, the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the OSSAA have kept school facilities closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Phase 2 of Gov. Kevin Stitt's Open Up and Recover Safely (OURS) Plan allows organized sports to resume — but questions still remain on the return of organized high school sports.

The National Federation of State High School Federations released guidance on Tuesday, indicating that each state will have to make a determination based on local data, and could use a suggested tiered approach to reopening athletic activities.

NFHS modeled its approach after guidelines from the White House's "Opening Up America Again" plan, which was first unveiled by President Donald Trump in April.

Homer said that, if given the green light by the OSSAA, McAlester coaches will have different regulations and safety measures to follow any guidelines that might be issued.

"We’ve talked about the social distancing. I’ve talked to all the coaches about summer pride and workouts and they need to have a plan if we proceed as normal,” Homer said. "All (coaches) have come up with different ideas to bring in small groups.”

Smaller groups, sanitizing workout stations, and social distancing techniques all could help the process of returning to high school athletics. The OSSAA announced on Tuesday that it is set for a special meeting on Friday morning at 9 a.m., and, if approved, will send a plan to member schools.

"Everybody’s kind of up in the air on this,” Homer said.

But in the event that the OSSAA makes a different determination than a full return to summer athletics, the Buffs coaching staffs will have contingencies in place.

"They all have stuff planned, but if they tell us no, we’ll have to go to Plan B,” Homer said. “And they’ve all come up with a Plan B.”

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