Whenever a sports team goes from having a terrible season one year to a fantastic season the very next year, the often heard cliche is “what a difference a year makes.” Well, in these unfortunate circumstances that have developed amid the coronavirus outbreak, what a difference a week makes.
Last week, Fremont softball and Santa Clara High softball and other high schools’ sports were just getting under way. With the developments of this pandemic though, there will be no more high school sports for at least the next few weeks, perhaps even months.
“With school districts closing and ours, my coworkers and I were very caught off guard. In a way, it was bound to happen, but I think the swiftness of it all, we were definitely not expecting it to happen like that,” admitted Santa Clara Bruins Athletic Director and Girls Basketball Head Coach Deedee Kiyota. “The last 48 hours was a whirlwind for me: my week was jam packed with activity and it went to the cancellation of Special Olympics, cancellation of our Warriors Field Trip, limiting spectators at athletic events, then suspending just swim and track, cancelling a few games here and there, then cancelling all spring sports, and now cancelling three weeks of school. It went from an action-packed week to a stressed filled week of cancelling sports, refs, and buses.”
Bus drivers and referees are two of the often overlooked and underappreciated roles in sports. They are now no longer working. Referees help school administrators put on sports for kids and it’s tough for them not to be able to provide that escape in these tough times. The most common response from Athletic Directors about the shutdowns was just how bad they felt for the seniors missing games in their final year.
“Some of the toughest conversations we are having with our athletes are with the seniors, those that may lose their last season of competition,” responded Kiyota on the topic of difficult conversations. “We just tell them to keep thinking positive, we are working hard to get through this, and we will do the best we can to get back out there.
“It’s very tough for the seniors. A lot of these athletes have been training for years for this final season,” added Wilcox Athletic Director, Head Football Coach and Baseball Assistant Coach Paul Rosa. “It may be ‘just sports’ in the eyes of a lot of people, but for some athletes, sports are one of the most important things going on in their lives.”
While sports are usually not considered a necessary part of life, when there is a threat to public health like the one we are currently facing, its loss is not an easy one for those involved. And it’s not just spring sports that have been affected by the shutdown.
The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), cancelled all the remaining state championship basketball games that were supposed to take place in Sacramento from March 12 to 14. Senior basketball players worked incredibly hard to make their championship games. Schools that made state games were scheduled to get to play them at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
Dating back to last week, it was the NBA on March 11 that decided to shut down their league entirely when they announced their first player, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, had tested positive for coronavirus. That announcement of a league shut down came just a couple days after teams were preparing to play games without fans. Teams like the Bay Area’s Golden State Warriors were prepared to play without fans, but never did. The full shutdown decision came before that could even happen. The following day, Thursday saw the NHL and MLS (National Hockey League and Major League Soccer) follow suit with closures, as did the first Bay Area school district. San Francisco Unified shut down Thursday afternoon. Santa Clara Unified announced their shut down on Friday.
Both Rosa and Fremont Athletic Director Jason Townsend have kids of their own playing high school sports. For Rosa, his son Paul M. Rosa is missing out on his senior year of baseball, while Townsend has two kids playing for Cupertino. These kids are having to make sacrifices in the name of public safety.
“With athletics being shut down for the foreseeable future it leaves lots of kids, coaches and parents in a state of wondering,” said Townsend. “My own daughter and son play sports for Cupertino High and my message for them is the same as what we have said to our athletes. This is a big deal if school is being shut down for this length of time…sports needs to take a backseat to making sure that people are healthy and having some optimism for the future and that requires some sacrifice in the immediate.”
The sacrifice these amateur athletes are making may seem insignificant to some, but for the seniors, it’s a year they won’t ever get back. Professional athletes will always have next year, the NCAA has said they will grant additional eligibility for players who may lose a season. But for high school students set to graduate and move onto college, this is a year they won’t be able to get back. Not to mention missing a senior season can certainly impact athletes’ abilities to get scholarship offers.
Hopefully things can return to normal as soon as possible. For the teenage athletes, hopefully they will be able to get at least partial spring seasons in for baseball, softball, track, swimming and lacrosse. But for now, we wait and see.