Talawanda sports and extracurriculars resume under safety restrictions


Talawanda High School

At Talawanda’s Aug. 28 home opener against Dayton Carroll, football players and cheerleaders were allowed on the field but only a few fans were allowed in the stands.

By Kayla Kamil

As the Coronavirus pandemic has forced everything from worship services to business meetings online, local school officials have been left to grapple with one aspect that can’t be conducted virtually: sports. 

As of last week, Miami’s fall sports season was canceled but sports at Talawanda High School had begun under state COVID-19 safety restrictions. 

While some Ohio districts opted to delay the start of sports until the spring, Talawanda’s school board voted to allow extracurriculars, including fall sports, clubs and activities like marching band, as long as they were able to comply with state regulations. 

The district has encountered some pushback from the community for allowing sports while classes remain online. 

“The difference is sports are more limited in the number and scope of people involved,” said Rebecca Howard, a member of the school board and its athletics liaison. “In addition, all fall sports except volleyball take place outdoors,” Howard said. 

“When we’re talking about sports, we’re talking about small numbers of people, participants and spectators, for limited periods of time,” Howard said. “Whereas in-person schooling involves 3,000 students, 700 staff members, five different buildings, five days a week, for six or more hours a day.” 

In addition to following the state restrictions, schools must also follow recommendations made by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). 

Spectators at all athletic events are limited in number, required to wear a mask or face covering, and must maintain social distancing guidelines. Concession stands are only offering prepackaged drinks and snacks. 

Last Friday’s football game at home against Dayton Carroll was the first match held with the restrictions. Only 350 tickets were pre-sold to family members of participating athletes, band members and cheerleaders. 

“We absolutely understand the frustration that families feel when they can’t all come to the game,” Howard said. “But this is an unprecedented situation and we’re all trying to do what we can to ensure the athletes can salvage the season.”

For those unable to attend, the game was streamed on ChatterBoxSports.com, a streaming site for local high school sports. The games can also be streamed through the Chatterbox Sports app. 

Saturday’s home cross country meet also looked different than past years. Runners were spaced out at the starting line to prevent crowding, and rather than using a funnel-shaped finish chute lined with fans, athletes completed the race on the track, where spectators could watch safely from the stands. 

Efforts were also made to limit the number of runners per race. 

“Everything’s been safe and good so far,” assistant cross-country coach Kalinde Webb said. “We’re pleased to be able to provide a safe environment for our athletes.” 

In addition to restrictions for games, athletes and coaches must also comply with additional safety protocols at practice, including mandatory pre-practice evaluations, limited group sizes, and wearing masks while not actively participating.