These are uncertain, and extraordinary times. Considering the unprecedented experience our country is undergoing regarding the COVID-19 crisis, it's likely we all need an escape. Many enjoy watching and participating in sports for that reason, and unfortunately, athletes have also been impacted. From high school to the pros, all sports have been put on hold with the future of playing again not quite known. How are these kids, coaches, administrators and fans handling all this? Many of them have some very interesting takes on the situation.
Many educators are ready to get back to work, anxious to see the kids, and vice versa for the students. For these coaches and athletes that were entering the 2020 spring sports season, they just want a chance to compete. Think about the seniors who are seeing their own chances of playing one final time, possibly becoming very slim and bleak.
For administrators like athletic directors, there is only so much they can do. The South Carolina High School League just recently postponed all sports until at least April 30. They have to show leadership to their entire coaching staff by delivering postponement information as they get it, and continue to be encouraging. Even with everything that has happened, these directors have to show leadership from afar.
Brian Rosefield, the AD with Ridge View High School, is one of those in position trying to find ways to keep things positive. "Right now, my coaches are just using their technological channels to engage with their student-athletes," Rosefield said. "From communicating on social media, Remind, TeamApp, etc., our athletic department has done things like encourage folks to share their memories from the past 25 years of athletics at Ridge View. That's been fun to see. Just doing what we can."
Some schools are simply finding ways to honor and recognize all their senior athletes by hanging banners around the school and facing roads so people can see them. In Lexington County, Batesburg-Leesville is hanging banners up on light poles in their downtown area just to show some form of appreciation for the kids.
Lugoff-Elgin High School, about 15 minutes from Columbia, has put posters on the outside of their baseball and softball facilities, as well as yard signs near the main highway. From track and field, golf, band, baseball to softball, all the seniors of their respective programs are represented.
Lugoff-Elgin softball coach Savannah Starling said she is hurting for her seniors. Like most coaches, she knows how much work these kids have added to their craft. "I've got kids that have been part of this program since seventh grade." Starling said.v"They have been lifting weights twice a week at 6 a.m. since July and have all put in the work. They have really grown as people." Starling even created a plan or scenario, in the case schools eventually open back up after April 30. She sent it to High School League officials and media in hopes to get the word out. Her plan (seen below) is to play a region tournament then go into the state playoff a week after that.
Starling's plan would be a shortened season, but it's the effort and opportunity the players and coaches are asking for. "Seeing how much they've grown in the game, and as people. We just want a chance." Starling added. "It would be devastating to see their time end without at least trying to give them some sort of season after all they've put into it."
One guy that stood out to me was the head baseball coach at Blythewood, Banks Faulkner. The Bengals are coming off a season where they finished runners up in the state championship, coming down to a game three scenario in which they lost the deciding contest at Segra Park in Columbia to Dutch Fork. They were hungry this season, and many projected them to be back for another strong campaign. On paper, with what they had returning, one could argue this was one of the better Blythewood teams in their history, which is saying a lot. Blythewood is one of the more respected programs in the state. Coach Faulkner on what he's told his kids during this time: "I'm just telling them to prepare as if we start playing May 1. We have to keep that mindset unless we get told otherwise."
Faulkner acknowledged communication is more difficult now. "I send them messages as a group periodically," he said. "They are given home workouts to do. Parents have even sent me pictures and videos of them working out, hitting and throwing. I miss them tremendously. They have all worked so hard, and I think this group was destined for big things."
Faulkner isn't the only one trying to motivate and educate. Even though some of these coaches' sports take place in colder seasons, they still found ways to pass the time with teaching.
Coach Joshua Staley of AC Flora is a basketball junkie. Breakfast, lunch and dinner he has basketball on the mind. He has posted instructional videos featuring his sons playing in the driveway. He has them run plays, execute moves while Staley even plays as the narrator, giving directions on what the viewer is seeing. From fundamentals, to post moves, dribbling, and the importance of overall execution.
Post Work (Part 1) pic.twitter.com/kQD6syHLck— Joshua J Staley (@Tal_Elon_Ali) April 2, 2020
When asked what prompted him to do something like this, he provided an answer many coaches can relate to. "The time alone with my family and sons," Staley said. "As coaches, we are on the go so much, that as professionals we tend to ignore the fact that you can unintentionally neglect what's most important." One of those most crucial things Staley said basketball coaches have told him over the years, is to play year round.
For football coaches, this would be that time of year to have spring practice and find out what kind of team they have, while also getting guys conditioned physically. All coaches can do now, however, is continue to encourage and stay positive. However, Spring Valley football coach Robin Bacon had an interesting idea that seemed to grab the local sports masses' attention. With spring activities on hold, he wanted to motivate his players and coaches by getting them to share their workouts and even challenge their fellow Vikings.
I got a challenge out for my Spring Valley Viking football players. Everybody has to do a short video of some athletic exercise you’ve done today and then tag a team mate or a coach. Hit the hashtag # @CobyCornelius #VIKINGSDOINGWORK pic.twitter.com/G3WNzOgOWL— Robin Bacon (@CoachRobinBacon) March 30, 2020
Some coaches even found ways to raise the spirit of the whole student body, with humor. Spring Valley girls' basketball coach Megan Assey started to document the "quarantine trials and tribulations" of her family by posting comical updates on Twitter. The response was pretty strong.
Day 1 of quarantine - Just found myself looking at Cape Cod real estate while my almost 6 year old yells at the 1.5 year old, “Bite me again and I’ll throw you outside to the chickens!” Should be a fun next 15 days or so.— Megan Honeycutt Assey (@coachmeg15) March 16, 2020
Megan is married to Cardinal Newman baseball coach Charles Assey (son of Charlie, who coaches at Gray Collegiate), so that's a big sports household in general. Assey joked about her situation with two small kids in the house, calling it "utter chaos but real life." "We all are dealing with it in our own way," she said.
Day ?!?! of quarantine - just choreographed all the dances to @Beyonce homecoming on @netflix w/ almost 6 y.o. Never felt more proud/more accomplished until an argument ensued over wardrobe malfunction as to why our clothes aren’t changing colors from gold to pink like the TV.— Megan Honeycutt Assey (@coachmeg15) April 3, 2020
She also commented on the way educators have been handling the COVID-19 crisis. "Personally, I've been extremely impressed with education and educators as a whole." Assey said. "Stepping up to the plate during these unprecedented times to insure students are still engaged in the learning process and finding awesome activities to keep them excited about learning. It really has been amazing to watch and makes me proud to be a part of the world of education."
Most student-athletes' parents are are taking the postponement just as tough. These are their babies. A lot of athletes today put so much investment and time into what they do, and the parents are not only the biggest supporters, but also know that struggle. From driving down the roads for games, to sacrificing time and money in order for their child to succeed and be happy. It's the passion of the entire family.
Amanda Holland has a senior softball player and said it just recently hit her. She said she had been putting the terrible thought to the side, that the great unknown could mean no season for her daughter. She became emotional talking about how her little girl may not have that time spent on the field, the bus rides, or dugouts with her teammates.
"This all just happened so quickly." Holland said. "Thankfully, we will have summer AAU ball and college, but others won't have that chance unfortunately. This could be the last chance for them to play together. But as parents, we have to stay mentally and physically strong this whole time for them, and we try to push her and just be ready. And that includes the next stage of life, not just sports. Hopefully all the seniors and even underclassmen understand that."
The hurt of lost time and no sports is affecting many across the country. Everyone has to deal with it in their own way, from encouragement and coaching, to motivation, and even humor. One thing is for sure, regardless of the way spring sports ends, the players, coaches and parents will all have an amazing story to tell.