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OHSAA has new rules for inclement weather
August 7, 2019

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Practice for all scholastic fall sports teams began on Aug. 1 with the Ohio High School Athletic Association setting up new parameters concerning inclement weather.

In the past, at the first sight of lightning an outdoor event had to be suspended. This year the rules are a bit more liberal. According to the OHSAA, "At night under certain atmosphere conditions, lightning flashes may be seen from distant storms. In these cases, it may be safe to continue an event if no thunder can be heard and the flashes are low on the horizon."

There is a slight alteration if both thunder and lightning rear their collective ugly heads over a high school stadium this autumn. The OHSAA written rule continued, "Otherwise if thunder is heard or lightning is seen, outdoor activities shall be suspended 30 minutes and all personnel, athletes and spectators shall evacuate to available safe structures or shelters."

The regulations that are related to head, heat and hydration have not altered from past seasons. In all cases, the student-athlete's best care is number one on the list.

"OHSAA has many resources and guidelines for schools to take precaution in extreme heat. OHSAA (also) reminds student-athletes and coaches to follow the proper medical regulations when there is any chance a concussion may have occurred."

The sports that began practice in full force last week were girls and boys golf, girls and boys tennis, girls volleyball, girls and boys soccer, girls field hockey and girls and boys cross country. Of course, the most followed athletic even in Northeast Ohio is football and there were many rules and regulations released by the OHSAA associated with that activity. Over 700 schools will field varsity football teams in the state and those schools will now need to adhere to an infant play clock regulation rule.

"National rule change this season for the 40 second or 25 second play clock will be used to determine delay of game, depending on the result of the previous play or the official signal," wrote the OHSAA in a press release. "Previously, the ball was marked ready for play when after it had been placed for a down the referee gave the ready for play signal and the 25 second count began."

A new playoff schedule has also been released by the OHSAA for the 2019 season. This change will split the regional rounds of the playoffs into two nights per week. The final computer points and playoff pairings will take place on Nov. 3. The following weekend, the regional quarter finals will commence with Divisions I, II, III and VI playing on Friday night and Divisions IV, V and VII starting their tournament on Saturday. The regional semifinals and finals will be battled over the ensuing two weekends with the same divisions playing on Friday and Saturday evening. The state semifinals will be staged over Thanksgiving weekend Nov. 29 and 30. Once again, the state championship games will be hosted by Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton from Dec. 5 through 7. All playoff games prior to the state title tilts will kick off at 7pm.

The first official Friday night of the high school football season will be on Aug. 30. Those exciting season openers will be preceded by scrimmage games that may be held between Aug. 9 and 24. The first time teams can scope out where it falls in the state computer rankings will be Sept. 24.

As per usual, all coaches both paid and voluntary must be certified by the Ohio Department of Education. Furthermore, all students must have passed a pre participation physical before stepping onto the gridiron. All football squads must still follow the five-day acclimatization period. During practices within that timeframe, players may wear helmets only on the first two days. Over this span, athletes may engage in conditioning, speed, agility and strength drills only. Those drills can also contain "dummies" for walk throughs. On days three and four, helmets and shoulder pads are finally allowed. From day five forward, full pads are allowed to be introduced. Full contact is not permitted prior to the sixth day of practice. If any student-athlete joins a team in the midst of full practice, that player must adhere to the strict five-day rule before full contact is permitted.

Coaches must also ensure there is adequate recovery time between practice sessions. There are two Sundays, August 4 and 11, which are considered "mandatory off days" by the OHSAA.

A new kickoff rule has also been administered in the freshmen ranks. All teams will start possessions at their own 35-yard line as kickoff returns have been abolished. That rule was already put in place for junior high school games a year ago. Kickoffs will only be permitted in junior varsity affairs if both coaches mutually agree to it. The ball will be spotted at the 50-yard line following a safety.

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