PLYMOUTH - With the cancellation of the boy's state basketball tournament on Thursday the IHSAA answered one lingering question on sports fans, parents and administrator's minds but one remains. What will be the effect on the spring sports seasons of the current efforts to curb COVID-19?
“My personal opinion based on Governor Holcomb's press briefing on Thursday, he said several times that it would be a miracle if we were back in school by the end of the school year,” said Triton Athletic Director Mason McIntire. “That being said, I'm praying for a miracle so our kids can regain a sense of normalcy and we will know that COVID-19 is behind us.”
"I think the IHSAA will make a sincere effort to salvage a spring sports season," said LaVille Athletic Director Will Hostrawser. "However, in order to do so, they are going to have to be rather creative."
"If they choose to give it a try, we are going to have to consider scheduling one of three ways - conference opponents, opponents in close proximity to our school, or schools in our respective IHSAA class size," he said.
"With a son that has worked all winter and last summer for this coming spring baseball season, from a parent's point of view, I’d hate to think we will miss the season or have to play an abrupt season," said John Glenn AD Eric Stephens. "But as an AD, I look at it this way, if we are playing games in May then that means all this virus stuff has calmed down and we have a handle on it. In reality, we have to prepare for the idea that we will not have a spring season, if we play a shortened season it would be an attempt at probably jamming conference games in first then flying into the sectional tournament. I’d take that at this point because it sure beats all these people having to be in lockdown in their homes."
Argos AD Jon Alcorn has come up with what he thinks will be a plan for when or if the spring seasons get underway but did say it was all speculation in a very fluid situation.
"I expected NONE of this three weeks ago," he said. "For baseball and softball, I would estimate we could only play 5-6 games before the scheduled sectional tournament. Sports would have to hold back a bit, because students are going to be facing an academic load if they are going to make up SAT testing, Advanced Placement course exams, etc."
"So, if we are able to get school open May 1, I would expect the IHSAA to move the spring sectionals back a week or two," said Alcorn. "Schools would likely need to create new schedules, most to cover their conference games, and the rest of us because we got dropped for schools to play conference games."
Hostrawser sees a similar situation at LaVille.
"Baseball and Softball (probably) 12 games, track, three meets and a conference meet, tennis 10, golf 12," he said, adding. "These are just pure speculation on my part, flat out guesses."
The IHSAA provided some guidance for the schools with a release to members allowing parents to make an independent decision on whether or not their child would be involved in "...non-school sponsored activity..." while schools are not in session saying that that was "...NOT an invitation to begin a limited contact period or conditioning which is school-sponsored and against the directive of our Governor." They also dropped the required number of practices before competition to five.
"I believe it was wise for the IHSAA to put us back into offseason mode till May 1 and then only requiring 5 practices," said Stephens. "Most kids have been either in a winter sport, been practicing under the limited contact rules, or participating in school weightlifting/PE. It’s important though for all these athletes to keep their fitness levels up through all this."
"So if we can then begin contests May 6, the question will be how many games is appropriate," said Stephens. "Kids still need time to recover after contests so playing every day isn’t going to do them any justice. I think you play enough games and contests to let kids have a sense of normalcy after going through this unprecedented time. It’s not going to be about anything other than kids going out and giving them the gift to play that has been taken away thus far."
Academics become another issue that plays into the discussion. High school athletes also have an academic standard that they must adhere to, to be eligible to play at all. With e-learning being a brand new undertaking for many schools will those standards remain the same or will there be some consideration made for the unprecedented amount of at-home learning?
"I think with the amount of e-learning that has taken place, there would have to be some relaxation academically," said Hostrawser. "I know this is the first year for us to use this platform in our school - so I know as educators, they are also learning. It is so new to us all. I'd think the state would have to relax their testing guidelines too."
"Academic requirements are not a problem because students are still enrolled in their classes, and their grades from the last grading period qualify or disqualify them," said Alcorn. "For Argos, we completed our nine-week grading period, so any players eligible grade-wise after that are eligible for the remainder of the year."
"We just need to do what’s best for kids," said Stephens. "This is a great time for coaches to reach out to kids to support and relieve their anxiety. Get their minds off of all this craziness and keep them grounded in sports."
"But as we now know, any decision could change in the next five minutes," he said. "The best plans can be conjured up over a period of time and washed away the next minute. I am going to stay optimistic and say we come back May 1 and you bet that I’m going to be in full-on work mode to give our kids at Glenn the best experience I can for the spring until someone tells me no."