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For some high school coaches, it's hurry up and wait for the fall sports season to begin

Posted at 10:42 AM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 19:10:55-04

CINCINNATI — La Salle football coach Pat McLaughlin says these final July days feel like part of a two-minute drill.

The calendar keeps moving forward as questions mount about whether all high school fall sports will start on time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aug. 1 is the scheduled start of official Ohio High School Athletic Association fall sports practice.

It's hurry up and wait at this point.

"I think everybody is proceeding as normal or as normal as we can be," McLaughlin said. "I really think it's in the back of everybody's mind that obviously something could happen. I think most coaches -- if we could have an answer one way or another -- we could be at ease."

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La Salle football coach Pat McLaughlin (left) with members of the 2019 state championship team in December.

The governor's office already has declared three of the OHSAA's fall sports as low contact, including boys and girls golf, girls tennis and girls volleyball. Those sports can have competitions between schools.

Contact sports including football, soccer, cross country and field hockey can begin official practice but aren't able to scrimmage or later play contests with other schools without COVID-19 testing, according to OHSAA interim executive director Bob Goldring.

"The biggest thing of all this is we know it's a fluid and unprecedented situation," said Ohio High School Football Coaches Association president Tom Pavlansky. "We got to be able to roll with it and be prepared for when that time comes."

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said on July 22 that more time was needed to determine a decision about high school sports.

"I don't have a crystal ball," DeWine said. "I can't predict. But it's within our hands what we do in the next few weeks."

During a typical summer, the reigning Division II state champion Lancers would've had at least a handful of seven-on-seven workouts with other teams by the end of July.

Instead, the Lancers must focus on workouts within their own program.

"Until they tell us no I know one thing about most coaches, most athletes: We're going to keep going 100 miles an hour until they say stop or until they say no," McLaughlin said.

Moeller soccer coach Mike Welker has heard rumors on social media about the upcoming season. He has spoken with coaching colleagues in Columbus and Cleveland who also wonder about the immediate future.

In a way, it's a summer of information overload for coaches and athletic directors while trying to remain upbeat with their student-athletes.

"It's been hard, man," Welker said. "I feel bad for these kids. They have been put through so much hell."

Moeller soccer coach Mike Welker (right) with former Moeller standout Ben Hegge. Welker says this summer has been a challenge in trying to predict if high school soccer will have a full season.

Welker prefers to keep his team focused on preparing for a season. Tryouts are scheduled for 7 a.m. Aug. 1. The first scrimmage -- against Highlands -- is scheduled a week later.

Welker said it has been important for his players to enjoy non-soccer activities during practice. Welker has learned to adapt as a coach.

"Everybody is just trying to figure this out," Welker said. "It's never been done before. Just being more understanding, I guess."

McLaughlin has encouraged his players to value family, football, friends and fun. He reminds his players to remain safe on the weekends.

"It hasn't been an easy process, but when our kids are there they're working hard and doing a good job," McLaughlin said. "And we really haven't talked about not having a season. Everything has been do our part: Wash our hands, social distance, wear a mask."

Cincinnati Country Day girls soccer coach Theresa Hirschauer has had similar conversations with her players about making the right decisions.

Cincinnati Country Day is the reigning two-time Division III state champion.

Cincinnati Country Day girls soccer coach Theresa Hirschauer says her team is prepared to take all the precautions during the pandemic to have a season.

"I think the thing I tell the girls is our job is to make sure we are ready to go when we have the opening whistle," Hirschauer said. "Our focus has always been about the tournament. And I believe in my heart of hearts that there is going to be a tournament. And so what we need to do between now and whenever a tournament is -- and if there is a small regular season -- that we're ready to go and we're healthy."

Hirschauer is starting her 31st season as the girls soccer coach.

"Our job as coaches is to be positive and make sure our kids are being safe," Hirschauer said.

She believes there will be a season but that it will probably be delayed until September. What's important now, Hirschauer said, is for everyone to keep perspective.

"It's going to be a year where people have to be nimble, they have to be flexible -- you have to give each other grace and do the things that you're supposed to do," Hirschauer said.