Zach Duffield

Zach Duffield

Owasso Public Schools announced last week it would begin summer activities as of on Monday, June 8.

Athletics director Zach Duffield confirmed the move during a virtual Oklahoma Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association roundtable discussion. Following a meeting with Ram coaches, Duffield sent out a three-page letter to parents of student-athletes detailing Owasso’s phase-in plan for sports.

Duffield said the idea behind Owasso’s reopening plan amid COVID-19 was to implement elements of the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association proposal, which was rejected by its board of directors last month.

“We took the plan that failed because we felt there was a lot of effort and information and detail involved in that plan,” Duffield said. “… We took that and we molded that around our community and what worked for us.”

Duffield also confirmed summer camps or competitions involving other schools, such as Diamond League for baseball or Passing League for football, will not take place at Owasso. Summer kids camps, which includes children elementary school age or younger, will not be permitted on any Owasso athletic facility as well.

“The only camps you may see is our coaches with our kids,” Duffield said.

The letter for Owasso’s reopening included sections regarding COVID-19 facts, key information for parents along with a checklist of safety guidelines for student-athletes and coaches prior to arriving on campus, once on campus and post workout procedures.

Among the precautions being taken include all coaches and student-athletes to wear masks when they enter any Owasso athletic facility. Students should provide their own masks. Students will also be required to bring their own water bottle with their respective name written on the bottle and are not permitted to share bottles.

Hand sanitizer will be available at Owasso athletic facilities. Parents may be permitted to enter an athletic facility only if they are given permission by Owasso staff member and screened for symptoms.

Prior to arriving for workouts, athletes and staff are asked to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms. Those symptoms include possible fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, sore throat, loss of taste or smell or known close contact with a person who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Once on campus, athletes will be screened prior to a workout, which includes a symptom questionnaire and temperature check. Locker rooms will be off limits to athletes. No more than three athletes will be permitted on each piece of workout equipment.

Facilities will be cleaned and disinfected throughout the workout. All coaches and athletes must wear masks during workouts except when performing activities restrictive to breathing and social distancing is possible.

When athletes leave workouts, they are encouraged to practice social distancing and wash their workout clothing immediately upon returning home. The letter also states facilities will be cleaned following each workout.

Given the heightened awareness on following safety guidelines, Duffield said during the virtual meeting summer workouts at Owasso will be voluntary.

“If there’s a family that believes they don’t want their son or daughter to participate in workouts, we completely understand,” Duffield said.

Reopening athletics at Owasso and other high schools around the state remains fluid. The OSSAA has a meeting scheduled for June 9 where it is expected to reassess the situation for summer activities and possibly vote on whether to enforce its dead period, currently scheduled for June 27-July 5. The ruling, which was first implemented a year ago, may be waived due to an already later start due to the global pandemic.

“I hope that the dead period is waived,” Duffield said. “But if it is (upheld), we have had it one year and learned how to adjust.”

Duffield was among a panel of athletic directors, which included Emily Barkley of Union, Tony Dillingham of Jenks, Gil Cloud of Tulsa Public Schools and T.D. O’Hara from Norman Public Schools, who urged caution in trying to open back up the doors to high school athletes.

Cloud said a misstep in June could have larger consequences down the road, particularly in a football-crazed state like Oklahoma.

“We suspended the spring season,” Cloud said. “If we suspend the fall season, talk about chaotic.”