Local sports leaders react to DeWine’s push to vaccinate all athletes

Local News

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Every coach can tell you how the importance of the off-season. This year, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine wants each athlete to do one thing before the season starts, and that’s to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Every Ohio high school athlete must get a physical this summer before the new season starts, the governor suggests using that opportunity to get the vaccine.

“This is the way to ensure virtually a 100% that you’re going to be able to continue to play ball,” DeWine said.

The request includes students involved in band, theater and even debate. The governor nor the OHSAA are requiring the vaccine.

Jim Penk is the former Austintown athletic director. He remembers dealing with COVID guidelines, plus texting and emailing other athletic directors every day during the seasons.

“We prepare starting on Monday and come Friday, you’ve got a different game plan based on maybe somebody made the phone call and said our team’s not coming,” Penk said.

Penk felt Austintown teams accepted the COVID restrictions and worked hard to save their seasons. Falcons teams only missed two pre-season scrimmages, while other teams called and canceled over 20 games.

Penk handed the athletic director duties to Russell Houser this week. He expects Austintown teams to follow any guidelines still in place and be ready again.

“I think the main thing for students is still continuing to be safe. Still making sure they’re washing their hands, doing all the things they need to be doing,” Houser said.

The vaccine is a parental decision in Austintown.

The athletes, and other students involved in after-school activities, will be anxious to have another successful season.

“I think our students are going to be safe in what they do. They learned a lot last year from that experience, and I think that will carry over,” Houser said.

Penk has experience and shares one piece of advice we’ve all developed through the pandemic.

“Take it one day at a time because it’s going to change by the hour,” he said.

Should any member of a team or other activity come down with COVID, they will have to follow the CDC guidance on quarantine.

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