The Ohio High School Athletic Association has kept a glimmer of hope at the possibility of a shortened spring sports season by announcing on Wednesday a tentative schedule should schools be allowed back in session starting May 4.
This gives hope to area coaches and athletic directors as well.
“Looks like our numbers as far as cases in Ohio are getting better. And they haven’t canceled it like the states around us,” said Wauseon baseball coach Trent Thomas on his level of optimism there will be a season. “I mean I’m not super, super optimistic, but at least I am a little more optimistic than I would have been a week or two ago.”
Thomas’ AD, Matt Hutchinson, let it be known he would support any decision made by the OHSAA. A decision that would ultimately come from Governor Mike DeWine, who will decide whether or not to open the schools back up in wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The OHSAA made it clear in their announcement Wednesday, if there is no school the rest of the year, then there will be no spring sports as well.
“We are holding out hope that the 2020 spring sports season will happen in some fashion,” said Hutchinson. “We fully support the decisions of the Governor and the OHSAA with regards to our schools and our sports teams. Hopefully we can return to some semblance of normal as soon as possible, but if they feel it’s in the best interest of the public health in Ohio to keep things closed during May, I understand.”
In Swanton, athletic director Wade Haselman is hopeful of a spring season, but knows it is by no means a certainty.
“It is really hard to say,” he said on the chances being greater than 50/50. “I think things are trending in the right direction and we have a much better chance at getting some sort of season in but I would still put it as under 50 percent. My biggest reason is my understanding that if Mr. Dewine keeps schools closed that the OHSAA will not have a season, and the Governor has been very cautious in his approach to this pandemic.”
The regular season would begin Saturday, May 9, giving teams a two-week regular season as the sectional tournaments are slated for May 23-30.
So for now, teams must get as prepared as they can both physically and mentally.
“We have a Google classroom set up,” noted Thomas. “Basically, I’ve sent them some things they can do on their own. Little motivational videos. Maybe not daily, but once or twice a week.
“It just kind of keeps me sane. So I can actually talk about baseball and not totally get bogged down in what’s going on.”
Nevertheless, Thomas admitted the current no-contact order in place has made it more difficult. Even more so when you throw in the fact that baseball is a sport tougher to train for by oneself.
“It’s a little harder with baseball,” he said. “You can’t just go out and shoot like you can a basketball. You can go out in your driveway and shoot. Baseball, you can get some tee work in and you can throw, hopefully, with a brother or your dad or whoever. It’s kind of up to them.”
Thomas says on their own his players can perform throwing workouts used for athletes during the winter that are not competing in another sport. He stresses they do work with a tee and net, should they have access to those tools at home.
His players have also been sent various conditioning exercises to perform, in the hope of staying in shape in the event there’s a season.
“One of my assistants, Todd Wyse, kind of puts together our conditioning stuff. So he’s put some stuff that was easier for them to do with maybe not a weight room… just some simple core workout/body weight stuff,” Thomas explained. “Are they all doing it, I don’t know. Probably not all of them, but if some of them are, hopefully if we do play they’ll be ready for it.”
Archbold softball coach Andrea Thiel is also working to adjust to this new lifestyle.
“The mandatory no-contact rule makes it quite difficult to get players prepared for a season both physically and mentally,” said Thiel. “However, I completely understand the intent and purpose behind the mandate. The safety of our student-athletes, coaches, and their families has to be the top priority. So much has changed for these student-athletes as they have not only had to deal with a new ‘normal’ in regards to their classwork and everyday life, but also the loss of time spent with teammates/friends getting ready to go to battle on the field. I communicate with the team via email or text a few times throughout the week. We also have Zoom meetings so that we can all connect as a team.
“I have shared with them that despite the uncertain future of our season, that it is so important to stay sharp and connected to the game with pitching/hitting workouts and to stay physically active as regularly as possible.”
Should there be a season, it will be prudent that athletes are in game-shape as much as they can be. To help with this, coaches will have to ease them into competition once the go-ahead is given to start practicing, said Hutchinson.
“For the coaches and players the first challenge will be to get themselves physically ready to compete,” said the Wauseon AD. “With the new OHSAA guidance we have a short five-day acclimation period prior to competition which we would need to use wisely to avoid any injuries upon return.”
Figuring out a schedule will be a tough thing to navigate with an abbreviated regular season.
Teams have games scheduled already during the time frame when it would begin, however; the challenge lies in finding more games in the two-week period to give teams adequate experience ahead of tournament play. And deciding whether or not to play a full league slate.
“I would prefer sticking with what we have scheduled and trying to fill in some games around it. Because our schedule is pretty light at the end, as most people’s is,” said Thomas. “I think we have four or five games that we have scheduled. Then trying to find, in that two-week period, another two, three, four games. I’d play every day.”
If it were up to Thomas, he would vote to scrap the league games due to the time constraints of a shortened season, questioning whether it was even fair to decide a league champion under those circumstances.
According to Thiel, Archbold AD Allan Gladieux informed her that Northwest Ohio Athletic League athletic directors met on Wednesday to discuss options.
“After speaking with my AD, there are no specific details available yet,” she said. “The only update he could provide to me at this time was that they are working on something.”
From coaches — many of whom are also teachers — to athletic directors, everyone’s lives are being impacted by this pandemic.
“This is an unprecedented time in our lives,” said Hutchinson. “In talking with other athletic directors, we are all trying to adjust to our new ‘normal.’ We’ve all been pretty busy with planning how we are going to approach some of our usual springtime items while maintaining social distancing, online meetings, future scheduling and officials assigning. Technology has allowed many things to still be accomplished during this time. This would have been extremely challenging 30 years ago.”
“Before this year, something like this would have been unheard of and something I never thought would happen,” said Haselman on dealing with the effects of the pandemic. “It has been difficult in many ways, the biggest of which is the uncertainty of the situation and being able to answer people’s questions and communicating with them with school not being in session.”
It is taking its toll on Thiel, who also teaches first grade at Archbold. “There is honestly quite a void for me, as I am sure there is for all teachers and spring coaches right now,” she said. “Not only am I unable to hold practices and provide in person leadership/mentorship to my players, but I have lost that same in person connection with my classroom full of first graders as well. There is just only so much of an impact you can make through a computer screen or a text, and I think that is the most frustrating part. But, I am trying to stay as positive as possible and maintain perspective through it all.”
As Thomas notes, this situation can prove as a good life lesson.
“We talk to our kids all the time about control what we can control and dealing with things like this, that we don’t have any control over. And being able to push through it. So it’s a good challenge on that aspect,” he said.
The track and field season would also begin May 9, with district tournaments being held June 9-13. Tennis kicks off tournament action with sectionals running from May 30-June 6.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010