The N.C. High School Athletic Association has postponed state championship basketball games and suspended all spring sports until at least April 6 in response to widespread concerns over containment of the coronavirus.
The N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association responded by suspending its spring sports indefinitely. This comes at a tenuous time in professional sports as European soccer leagues join the NBA, MLB, NCAA, NASCAR, PGA, XFL, UFC and other leagues that have suspended or postponed some activities and canceled others.
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And it leaves high school coaches and student-athletes in limbo, even as the arbitrary April 6 date has been set by the NCHSAA.
“My first reaction was we need to do what’s right for the safety of our kids,” Providence baseball coach Danny Hignight said. “I think most people are pissed off whether they’d tell you that or not, but we have to do what’s right. I don’t want my kids getting sick and going home and giving it to their parents. That’s the last thing I want.”
Hignight and his Providence team beat East Meck 9-6 on March 13, the same day the NCHSAA put its moratorium on practice, skill development, workouts and all contests.
Even though they were on the road that night, the Panthers treated it as senior night for the five Providence seniors on this year’s roster not knowing if they’ll get the chance to suit up together again.
“It hasn’t really processed that this could be our last game,” Providence senior outfielder Walker Wolf said. “We’re all trying to stay positive and thinking that April 6 we’ll be able to get back out there and finish our season.”
Providence’s James Fairley said the players are going to work on their craft during the break, but not being on the field playing and practicing was certainly going to be different.
“The hardest part is not being out there with my teammates and friends who have become like family,” Providence senior Bradley Davidson said. “It’s going to be hard not being able to practice and play games with them.”
Some coaches, like Ardrey Kell baseball coach Hal Bagwell, are using this experience as a life lesson and a great teaching point.
“You always encourage your kids to play this game like today is your last,” he said. “All you’re trying to point out there is to give your best effort, have your best attitude and do your best to maximize what you enjoy. So I think you can use that. But any sport is a game of momentum and confidence and you try to improve, so that’s not going to get to happen over this period of time. The fact is, though, that everyone is having to do it.”
Carol Lawrence, the girls track and field coach at Providence Day, said the team is using Google Hangout to hold strength and conditioning workouts during the layoff as if they were after school. Athletes will sign in and hold each other accountable.
“They’re still together as a team at some point that way,” Lawrence said.
Then they can run on their own or simulate field activities, which will be tough.
There are other repercussions, too. Providence Day senior Brent Daniels was having a great spring, focused on making the 110 hurdles finals for the first time.
For junior standout Eliza Cardwell, Lawrence said, she was working on trying to get a personal record in some of her events and get some opportunities to run in college.
NCHSAA Deputy Commissioner Que Tucker said during a March 13 conference call that most of the state’s athletic directors have expressed disappointment and frustration with the situation but have been understanding as a whole.
“From the standpoint of understanding the gravity of where we are and the seriousness of this issue, I think our athletic directors have been great,” Tucker said. “They understand this is serious and about the health of individuals.”
Much of the conference call, Tucker spoke of the basketball state championships, which remain in limbo with eight title games needed to be completed. She said the NCHSAA is trying to play them in the near future but with the uncertainty has explored many possibilities, including naming co-champs.
“There has been no discussion on what the calendar would look like going forward,” she said. “We will use (this) week to look at the calendar obviously with one eye peeled to the state and the country. We will be looking at the calendar and playing those what-if games. What if we are able to start on April 6? What if we’re not able to start on April 6? What is the latest we believe we could get some competition in that could lead to a state championship? We don’t have any idea at this moment.”
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