Beginning Saturday at every high school playing field, gym, court or pool, activity will appear dead for a little over a week.
The first year of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activity Association’s summertime dead period will commence Saturday and extend through July 7.
During the dead period, secondary level students enrolled or pre-enrolled at a member school and their parent and/or guardian may not use any member school’s athletic facilities during the dead period in connection with any athletic activity governed by the OSSAA on their own accord. Member school coaches, assistant coaches and sponsors may not have any contact with these students in that member school in any athletic activity governed by the OSSAA for the purpose of coaching, training or instructing.
Violations of the rule, by the coach or school personnel not designated as a coach or sponsor will result in the head coach or sponsor suspended from the first half of the regular season in that activity.
Just to be clear, that doesn’t keep a coach from a game of pickup with his kids in the driveway at home to start off the Fourth of July, or even a round of golf between an AD and his daughters?
Attention Chuck London at Fort Gibson and Chad Kirkhart at Hilldale, and others in that situation, you’re off the hook. No infraction on your part.
In fact, when I asked David Jackson about it, just to be sure, the director of the OSSAA said of the golf: “If they have a chance to play Pebble Beach on vacation next week and they don’t, I’ll be mad at them.”
Well David, the Kirkharts (two of Chad’s girls are college-age) will stick closer to home and save the money, but I know they’ll appreciate any offers.
As for Chuck, you’re also good to go, provided that pick-up game doesn’t become a team practice.
“The spirit of the rule is a standard time to give everyone a break,” Jackson said. “I think if we use that as our guide, we’re going to be OK.”
Most coaches I spoke to said they’ve made the adjustment on activities like Summer Pride and team camps, knowing the rule has been coming for over a year.
Also impacted are teams playing outside of the high school circle, but only on high school fields or with high school coaches.
Mike Whitten coaches the Three Rivers Bandits baseball team in American Legion ball. A game scheduled against Shawnee on July 7 has been moved to a college venue to comply with the rule.
That’s not an option for many club swimmers, though.
Most club coaches are also high school coaches and most club pools double as school pools. That poses a problem for such swimmers as Muskogee’s Klair Bradley, whose club coach is a coach at Union. Compounding the problem is a Firecracker Meet in Edmond hosted by the home pool for Edmond schools which is also the pool that hosted last year’s OSSAA state championships.
This meet, said Klair’s mother, Karen, is seen a tune-up meet for the Speedo Region 8 Sectionals that starts July 17 at Jenks.
“Kids from all over the Midwest who qualify will be competing. This is also when colleges do recruiting,” she said.
Many swimmers will be college level but some will be high school. Klair qualified for this meet at age 13 and has been swimming in it since then. She’ll be a sophomore this fall.
“There will be kids will be making their Olympic trail cuts at this meet,” Karen said.
A week lost to competition at this point would definitely seem critical. The uniqueness of swimming in terms of limited facilities would also seem problematic.
Amy Cassell, who oversees swimming as an OSSAA executive, said the association made every attempt to avoid conflicts, saying the conversation began on this in the spring of 2017 and soon after that, she said, included facilities and clubs. It was approved by the OSSAA in March 2018.
“This isn’t something we just threw out there,” she said.
Edmond Schools, she says, was involved in these discussions. So was, she said, the aquatics director at the Edmond facility, which is co-owned but not operated by Edmond schools.
“That message was then communicated to the clubs and they didn’t make any adjustment in their schedule,” Cassell said. “They had plenty of opportunities to make an adjustment. I don’t know if they didn’t because it didn’t affect them. I can’t speak to that. All I can tell you is we effectively communicated what we were doing.”
Both Bryan Heathcock, the aquatics center director, ad Suzan Haizlip, the Firecracker meet director, were reached out to after that conversation. Both said they didn’t hear about it until January.
“Amy might have talked to people in Edmond Public Schools, but I’m not Edmond Public Schools,” Heathcock said. “What she tells Edmond Public Schools has nothing to do with the day to day operation of the facility. As far back as 2017 I had no conversation with Amy (until we found out in January).”
Haizlip said the meet’s numbers took a definite hit among Oklahoma secondary students. But about 400 will participate including members from Texas, Kansas and Arkansas.
Cassell was leaving town after reached on Wednesday and could not be reached for follow-up.
Connie Dean, the Fort Gibson swim coach and the only other area program that could be impacted, said none of her current kids are club swimmers.
Bradley is, though, and becomes one of the victims.
The OSSAA said they tried, and Cassell insists that swimming was treated no less different than any other sport.
“Swimming was every bit a part of this discussion,” Cassell said. “The (participation) numbers there compare to volleyball or wrestling. We did our best to communicate it and in the entire process, there wasn’t really any push back among member schools. Some parents had questions about clarity.
“But it was a measure that through the process was determined to be something that was needed.”
It’s the first year for it, so maybe there’s some room for tweaking ahead. Or, maybe not.
“There was no other time for us to move our event,” said Haizlip.