Athletics at El Reno High School are dead.
Now that I have your attention, let me explain.
Until Sunday at midnight there will be no sports related to El Reno High School being played anywhere in the city – well, in theory that is.
“It’s Dead Week,” said David Glover of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association, which in the eyes of the OSSAA means no basketballs bouncing or volleyballs being spiked at Jenks Simmons Field House. No baseballs thrown or hit across the road at the Hub Reed Complex and the same for softball across town at the Joe E. Riley Field.
Footballs at Memorial Stadium are supposed to be locked up. Tennis balls at Legion Park are to be still, wrestling mats at the old YMCA building are to be empty.
You get the idea.
While it’s dubbed Dead Week, it’s actually called the Summertime Dead Period by the OSSAA. It's a nine-day time frame which started at midnight Saturday and runs through midnight Sunday, July 7.
It’s the first year for the state’s governing body to observe the period, but rules have been set up to adhere to the same time frame for future years.
The dead period will cover the week of the Fourth of July holiday as well as the weekend before and after the holiday – for a total of nine days.
“It was getting to the point that the kids were not getting any time off and the coaches were not getting any time off,” said Glover.
The concept was borrowed from the model used by the Arkansas Activities Association. Glover, who was in Indianapolis this week for the National Federation of State High School Association’s annual conference, said schools were sent a survey featuring three options.
Those options were no dead period, the nine-day period or allowing schools to set their own dead period.
“I don’t have the exact figures but I know 70-plus percent of the surveys favored doing it the way we are doing,” said Glover.
The rules are pretty simple - there are no summer practices for any athletic activity related to El Reno High School. No athlete will be allowed to use the school facilities during Dead Week and coaches (heads or assistants) as well as sponsors will have no contact with players during that period for the purpose of coaching, training or instructing.
“This is new and it's already raised people’s eyebrows. One misconception is that this was an OSSAA policy we came up with, which it was not. This was something that was brought to us by the school administrators a couple of years ago,” said Glover.
Glover added the Oklahoma plan was trimmed down to nine days instead of the 14 days in which Arkansas currently has in place.
“They love the two weeks off in Arkansas and had asked for a third week but I don't know if they got it or not. We will find that out this week at the conference,” said Glover.
Glover said, from a personal standpoint, he loves the format.
“My daughter is a coach in Woodward and I know it’s a positive for her family. With everyone doing it at the same time, no one is getting a leg up on anyone else and you won’t miss out on anything.
“I’ve already had one parent call me asking what the dates for the Dead Week will be next year. I was able to tell them and they loved it because they wanted to book a family cruise for that period,” said Glover.
There are some exceptions to the dead period policy which address Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) sports. Glover added that if a team or a coach has qualified for a national-level tournament earlier in the summer, they can participate in the tournament and practice for that specific event during the time-off period.
There are penalties set in place for those schools and coaches that violate the Dead Week guidelines.
According to the OSSAA rulebook, violations of the Summertime Dead Period policy will result in the coach or sponsor being suspended from the first half of the regular season in that athletic activity. School personnel not designated as a coach or sponsor in violation of the Summertime Dead Period policy will result in the head coach being suspended from the first half of the regular season in that activity.
However, Glover said there is no arm of the OSSAA set up to police the dead period and that it will be up to schools to report violators.
“We will get phone calls. Schools like to call and tell on each other. We have penalties in place but I really don’t expect we will have to use them,” said Glover.
Loopholes do exist and El Reno is right in the middle of them. Since the school district only owns Jenks Simmons Field House outright, that facility will have to be locked completely to all secondary-level students during the dead period.
However, a loophole exists since the city of El Reno owns or helps control Memorial Stadium, Hub Reed Complex, Joe E. Riley Field, Legion Park, Crimson Creek Golf Course and the old YMCA building.
The school district either holds long-term leases from the city at those sites or in the case of the golf course, pays a fee for players to play.
According to OSSAA Media Director Van Shea Iven, since the city owns those fields, players can use them during the dead period to practice on their own accord but can have “no instruction from their coach.”
The school district does own the indoor battling cages at the baseball and softball field, which means those will have to be shuttered to players during the dead period.
“Any field, court or gym that is the school’s is off limits to the kids,” said Iven.
El Reno Superintendent Craig McVay said the district will avoid any potential conflicts by shutting everything down during the dead period.
Athletic Director Rodney Haydon has informed all coaches to that fact.
“We are not playing any loopholes. I’ve seen the emails that Rodney has sent to all the coaches that we will be following the dead period to the absolute letter of the rule. Over the period there will be no kid in any sport on the property – city-owned or not.
“Our coaches need a break and I think the kids need a break from the coaches. I like the dead period but I do have some concerns with the timing,” said McVay.