Chuck Atchison

EHS head football coach Chuck Atchison.

Welcome back to the normal dog days of summer as far as high school sports in the state of Oklahoma is concerned.

There are a few schools like El Reno having a late football team camp, but the rest of the state is watching the clock tick slowly down to Monday’s start of practices for volleyball and softball.

The state has emerged from its first-ever Summertime Dead Period, which lasted from June 29 through July 7. Over that nine-day period, mandated by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, districts were not allowed to open up their facilities for athletes to use, nor were coaches to have contact with their players – for training or instruction purposes.

OSSAA Assistant Director Amy Castle said the no-contact part of the dead period may have misled some school districts.

“We were not trying to segregate anyone from their players. We didn’t say they could not talk to them if they came across them in public. We still let some schools have their car washes and fireworks stands for fundraising purposes. They just had to call and let us know,” said Castle.

Castle said she has fielded no calls this week about schools violating the dead period.

“We have not heard any reports of violations. The people I have spoken with during the course of the week have made a point to mention how much they have enjoyed it. I’m not sure that goes for everyone, but the people I’ve spoken with said they appreciated the time,” said Castle.

One of those who was not a big fan of the dead period was El Reno High School head football coach Chuck Atchison.

“We normally give our kids the same time off every year anyway so that was not a big deal. I don’t like losing the contact with the kids. We train for months to get into shape and all of a sudden you take nine or 10 days off.

“Then you come back and you have to start all over again. From that aspect I’m not a big fan of it,” said Atchison.

The OSSAA’s theory behind the dead period, which was brought to them by school administrators several years ago, was to give both players and coaches a break from each other during the summer.

Atchison says that logic was hard to understand.

“Nothing behind it makes sense to me. Kids today train all year long and they are used to it. Some of our kids need a place where they can come up and work out and get that structure in their lives,” said Atchison.

The OSSAA has already set the 2020 dead period to run the week of the Fourth of July and the weekends before and after the holiday. Atchison says he would like to see that time frame switched to earlier in the summer.

“I would like them to move it to right at the end of school. You can have your 10 days of spring drills and then have the dead period,” said Atchison.

Castle said it’s too early for the OSSAA to start evaluating the pluses and minuses of the dead period.

“We are only a week out from it happening so it’s way too early to start thinking or discussing tweaking anything. We will have to wait until later in July when we go to the coaches clinic to have more opportunity to inquire how it affected people,” said Castle.

There is no question the OSSAA will need to visit some policy changes before the 2020 dead period. There is no reason why the policy cannot be adapted to get a better fit for all schools involved.

I said in a previous column that I liked the idea of the dead period. However, I can understand Atchison’s point that closing off all facilities to players for nine days seems a bit strict.

More and more Oklahomans, either for financial or logistics reasons, are enjoying the concept of staycations. So why not allow kids to at least work out during that period on a voluntary basis.

It’s no secret that El Reno Public Schools has a high number of students who come from low-income households who may not be able to take a big vacation or even afford a gym membership.

So why not at least let those players have somewhere to go to work out on their own or with teammates? Sure, there will be those coaches who try and skirt the boundaries of the rules, but those are always easier to spot and deal with.