A little over two weeks after the state ordered school facilities to remain closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local athletic officials are coming to grip with the realization they will not have a spring season.
Many emotions are being felt by those involved, but perhaps the biggest is sadness.
“I am heartbroken for our spring sport athletes,” said veteran Archbold baseball coach Dick Selgo. “I know how much time and effort our baseball players have put in, and how hard they have worked to prepare for this season. Nobody would have ever thought something like this was going to happen. I feel especially bad for our seniors. It was their last chance to participate in high school athletics. At least some of these seniors have been able to experience varsity baseball, but for some of them, it was going to be their first and only experience at the varsity level. They have paid their dues, and waited for their chance, and now they will never get that opportunity.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Swanton baseball coach Josh Siewert — who was set to begin his first season — is feeling much the same as coach Selgo.
“I was in kind of disbelief. I understand why it happened, but this has never happened before and just couldn’t believe it,” said Siewert on his reaction to the news. “I was really upset for the kids, especially the seniors we had. For these kids to lose their season, it really hurt.”
Although the decision to cancel the sports season creates a lot of heartbreak, it was for the best in terms of public health, says Wauseon athletic director Matt Hutchinson.
“I have no doubt that the leaders in Columbus had a challenging time making the decisions they made. While it was a disappointment on many fronts, it was the right call to make if it helps to keep people alive,” he said.
Wauseon boys track coach Joe Allen adds that this situation should be viewed in the proper context. Everything done is all for the purpose of saving lives.
“When you put everything into perspective, I don’t believe disappointed is the correct term. Sacrificing for a greater good is a better perspective,” said Allen as to his level of disappointment regarding the season’s cancellation. “I am saddened for my seniors, though. I am hoping athletically this somehow helps athletes in the younger grades. It gives them a chance to recharge their batteries and be teenagers, kind of! I am hoping that it gives athletes an exuberance for future sports seasons. I hope it helps them find a love of sports. I hope it helps them to realize that they need to compete every time like it is their last chance. I am hoping it helps injured athletes heal.”
He felt this could have been a special season for his boys.
“I do believe we would have a competitive season this year,” Allen explained. “I feel some athletes were primed to have great performances. I know several were looking forward to it. However, it was not meant to be.
“The best thing I can do now is take this time to reconnect with my family and do some learning to help me become a better coach. That way I can plan for future seasons and make those seasons successful.”
Selgo had a tough time telling his team they would not be competing for him this spring.
“I have felt bad in past years when I would have to call our players to tell them a game was canceled due to bad weather, but I’ve never felt as bad as I did when I called them to tell them their entire season was canceled,” he said. “What an empty feeling. It is one of those things in life that we cannot control. It is very hard for a high school athlete to understand right now, but there will be bigger and better things to come in their lives.
“I also feel bad for our underclassmen, who have lost a season that they will never get back. One tough lesson we can learn from this, is to never take anything for granted. Play every game like it is the last one you will ever get to play.”
Selgo has built the program back up into a consistent winner.
The Blue Streaks have won Northwest Ohio Athletic League titles in two of the last three seasons — also winning district crowns in those respective years. The skipper believes they were in for another successful campaign in 2020.
“Even though we lost 10 seniors from last year’s 26-4 team, we had high hopes for this season,” explained Selgo. “We had some pretty good players returning, and some more good ones coming up from the JV team. This group was really looking forward to the challenge of competing for a league title, and trying to make another tournament run.”
For Siewert, he was hoping to get his hands dirty, gaining the proper experience to be a successful coach for the Swanton program.
“Going into the year I had a lot of things I was trying to check off for the season to be ready,” said the first-year coach. “Everything to me was a first, and I wanted to manage everything the right way. Say you have a coach with years of experience who has been through the offseason and routines, practices, etc. I’m still somewhat learning this and planning my routines and practices and then this (COVID-19 pandemic) hits. At first we’re put on hold and then canceled. Everything I am trying to put together is on hold. I just think a coach with years of experience would have a better hold on his daily routines for the upcoming season.”
Siewert was inheriting a young team, but that doesn’t mean they were going to be bad. He was encouraged by the players he had.
“We were returning one starter and three total letter winners. We were going to have some growing pains as any team returning only one starter, but after the first two weeks of practice, I could see some talent on the diamond,” explained Siewert. “The kids were hungry and showing great effort. We play in a very tough league, but I believe we were going to compete.”
The decision hit close to home for Hutchinson, who has two children who were set to compete for Wauseon track and field. Furthermore, son J.T. was preparing for his final spring sports season.
“There was quite a bit of disappointment in our house when we lost the 2020 spring sports season,” said the elder Hutchinson. “We were really looking forward to the possibility of an exciting year on the track. It’s definitely been a learning experience not only for our kids but for us as parents as well. As long as this virus doesn’t have a drastic health impact on the people in our community, we feel fortunate. Hopefully our children will be able to use this setback as a way to put life events in the proper perspective and enjoy their future experiences with a greater sense of appreciation.”
The only thing left to do now is look forward. While sports have been lost for this school year, there is optimism for the future once COVID-19 is controlled.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010