The Ohio High School Athletic Association recently released a tentative spring sports schedule should schools be allowed back in session beginning May 4.
The announcement gives area coaches and athletic directors a glimmer of hope they will have a season to plan for.
In Swanton, athletic director Wade Haselman feels optimistic to the chance of having 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 according to schedule released by the OHSAA, giving teams a two-week regular season before the sectional tournaments slated for May 23-30.
The OHSAA made it clear when they announced the tentative schedule, if there is no school the rest of the year, then there will be no spring sports as well. So it will depend on what Governor Mike DeWine decides, as to the safety of schools re-opening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While they await the Governor’s decision, teams must prepare themselves as best they can both mentally and physically.
Evergreen baseball coach Tim McCarthy, entering his first year leading the Vikings after several seasons as Swanton’s coach, said he laid out a plan for his players before school shut down.
“The kids all have things to work on individually from pitching, defense, hitting and conditioning,” he said. “I have been in contact with them via phone multiple times a week both to talk baseball and also making sure they are staying safe and healthy and keeping up with their virtual learning. With social distancing it’s tough, but the response from the kids has been great! This is a resilient group who are finding ways to stay in shape and work on baseball with limited resources, all while staying within the Governor’s guidelines. We talk often about controlling what we can control. All we can do is prepare when we can to be ready when they finally do say ‘play ball.’”
One of the more difficult aspects to tackle for ADs and coaches in an abbreviated regular season is putting together a schedule.
It does help that the OHSAA has said teams can schedule games through the end of the season — including the tournament — which would be June 27.
Because of this, McCarthy has an idea of how he would like scheduling to occur for Evergreen, and the rest of the Northwest Ohio Athletic League teams for that matter.
“We would like to play as many games as possible through the June 27 date,” explained the Vikings’ skipper. “I am actually in favor of not only playing league games but I’d like to play a double round (robin). Obviously you wouldn’t get all of them in before the tournament would potentially start but I think it would help a lot with scheduling. Our schedule, for example, has four games against Michigan teams the first two weeks we would be allowed to come back. Other leagues are shifting how they are doing things league-wise and some schools on our schedule will need to reschedule or cancel due to that. I believe that will have an impact on us and the other league schools when it comes to getting games on the schedule. That being said, we deal with scheduling a lot of non-league games in the first place. We are willing to do what we have to do to play ball. We just want to play.”
The track and field season would also begin May 9, with district tournaments being held June 9-13.
Track perhaps is better suited for a shortened 2020 campaign. Furthermore, in terms of the NWOAL, a league champion could be found much easier, says Haselman.
“Track is easier because of the fact that the only thing you need to have a league champion is one meet while baseball and softball usually requires everyone playing individual matchups that would take a much longer time to get through,” he said. “In both cases there would be difficulties, but as far as the league goes, I think getting a league track championship would be easier.”
Teams had already begun practicing when schools were shut down, therefore, athletes were given an idea of workouts to do while at home.
“We as a staff have told our athletes to work on their own and do plyos, ab work, and running workouts similar to what we did the first four days of practice before the shutdown,” said Swanton boys track coach Ryan Borer.
There will be many hurdles to climb in the event of a shortened spring season. But, one stands out above all the rest, according to Borer.
“The biggest challenge is getting them in shape in a very short time in order to compete at a higher level with the league meet and tournament to prepare for,” he said. “It is a lot to ask of athletes, but can be done safely with cooperation from coaches and athletes alike.”
From coaches to athletic directors, everyone’s lives are being impacted by this pandemic.
“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.”
“Without question this is not only the toughest situation I have ever dealt with as coach, but in everyday life as well,” said McCarthy of the situation. “I am sure a lot of high school coaches will echo that. All we can do is control what we can. There are things bigger than baseball. This virus is nothing to play around with. I have friends and co-workers who have been affected. We need to continue to listen to the Governor and follow the guidelines in place. It seems like Ohio is doing all the right things right now in response to it. If we continue to do so we have a shot (to play).”
A decision will likely come this week in regards to the re-opening of schools in Ohio, thus also determining the fate of spring sports.
While it is true that coaches and athletes are chomping at the bit to return, they know public health is of the utmost importance. So whatever the Governor decides, they will have to live with.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010