Welcome back to Phil for the Game, your glimpse into the sports community of Boone County.
During a COVID-19 press conference on Dec. 30, Gov. Jim Justice announced that winter sports would be pushed back again. This time the date is set for Mach 1.
Previously, the kick-off date was set for Jan. 11, but increasing numbers across the state — now glowing red — is the reason for the delay.
From my perspective, I think we shouldn’t have athletics if we aren’t going to in-person school. I don’t think we’ve had enough comparative studies regarding the classroom versus the court to determine how much safer one is than the other. I can honestly say that if my daughter were playing sports — even if it were her senior year — I’d consider keeping her out of sports.
I’m certainly not judging any other parent and their decisions. Parenting is hard enough without that.
I’m basing this on my gut instincts and when it comes to my child, I’ll err on the side of caution EVERY time. Am I an over-protective papa bear? Yeah, you are probably right. I won’t apologize for it, though.
I’m not a health professional and I tend to tilt at the advice of the professionals. I did reach out to a couple of our county boys basketball coaches for their thoughts on the announcement.
We’ll start with Scott High Head Coach Shawn Ballard. He is not an educator.
“Personally, I think it’s a good move,” he said. “I know the remaking schedules and constant push back is frustrating, but as we stand today if we had started the season on Jan. 11 and went by the color-coded map, I don’t know if or when we would have had the opportunity to get enough practices in to even play games. This gives us a chance for some time after the holidays to let cases hopefully slow down and hopefully we are able to get enough vaccines distributed in the meantime.”
He continued, “If that happens and things go well, we could have a legitimate season, something these kids have been working hard and waiting for, as opposed to what things would have been if we started in January. I’m thankful they didn’t outright cancel the season; they haven’t clarified weather spring sports will also be pushed back or if they will happen at the same time as winter sports this year.”
Ballard said he thinks it would be unfair to cancel winter sports.
“I always encourage kids to play multiple sports, but in a year like no other, I think we have to be as flexible as possible and if that means for one year kids have to choose a sport for one season, then that’s what it has to be,” Ballard said. “I think it would be unfair to cancel the winter sports season because it goes into the timeframe of the traditional spring sport season and cause the kids who only play winter sports to miss out entirely. The kids that play both, they can try to do both as best as reasonably possible, or choose one or the other for this year. I think either way, the kids will just be happy to have the opportunity to choose a sport and get back out there playing and competing.”
Sherman High Head Coach Aaron Pauley had a different perspective.
“I don’t understand it, to be honest,” he said. “How to do you say all kids need to be in school five days a week regardless of the map, then say no sports until March 1? We can cram 60 kids on a bus but not 10 on a basketball floor?”
He expressed frustration as a coach and a teacher.
“I’m not saying we should or shouldn’t play, but the mixed messaging is getting old,” he added. “I don’t know how to answer if we should play because the first three seconds I listen to the media I feel like I’m supposed to be afraid to walk outside and the next I feel like I’m allowed to do anything.”
I made the prediction last month in this column that we wouldn’t see a full prep season until the fall, and I stand by that. I’m edging closer to saying we won’t see sports at all until the fall. Again, I hope I am wrong.
I think both coaches I spoke to brought up valid points and frustrations. Obviously, Coach Pauley is dealing with it from a different angle, being an elementary school teacher.
Until next time, be safe and be well, neighbors.
I’ll leave you with a favorite sports quote of mine.
“Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very un-orderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.” ― Bill Veeck
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry @hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.