High-school coaches around Seattle understand the reality of spring 2020.
The NCAA — canceled. The Olympics — postponed. Professional sports leagues — indefinitely on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Maybe I’m just cynical,” Garfield softball coach Ken Simpson said. “If I were a betting man, I don’t think there will be any season at all.”
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association hasn’t ended the spring season yet. The WIAA said if schools are back in session by May 4, it will field spring state championships. And even if they return after that, it could hold some sort of spring competition.
“While everything is changing, nothing really is changing,” WIAA sports information director Casey Johnson said.
That unchanged position gives hope.
“As a baseball coach, we live every day with the chance of rain,” O’Dea’s Mike Doyle said. “I tell my players, it can be pouring all morning, but until we hear the field is closed, we still play. Right now, it’s still raining. But are we going to have a miraculous weather change?”
If there is a season, teams have to somehow be prepared. Getting athletes ready to go might prove difficult.
For now, coaches have little access to their players and athletes.
“We’re sending them workouts they can do on their own,” Tahoma girls track and field coach Jeff Brady said. “Without working with them individually, though, not working on the technical stuff, you just don’t know how hard they are pushing themselves. Are they using the right form?”
Brady’s girls had hopes to win a fourth consecutive Class 4A state title at the state meet at Mount Tahoma.
Simpson also had his team looking forward to defending a state title. The Bulldogs became the first Seattle Public Schools team to win the Class 3A softball championship in 2019.
For now, Simpson has to accomplish whatever he can with his players remotely.
“I’ve been sending them video clips of games,” Simpson said. “I’ve sent them a few Husky games so they can see the quality of play. We’re trying to keep them from forgetting there is a team.”
Eastlake softball coach Stephanie Fox has opportunities over social media to check in on her players.
“We have five seniors,” Fox said. “And there’s softball after high school for the majority of them, so they will have opportunities.”
For this season there is little Fox said she can do at the moment.
“They all want to get together,” Fox said. “They ask, ‘Can we go to the field?’ The answer, sadly, is no. Even if they could (within the COVID-19 regulations), the facilities are closed.
“I’ve got a trainer that I’ve worked with every year I’ve been here. That trainer is providing them workouts they can do on their own. But as far as softball-related skills, no. They’re all really hungry just to get out there again.”
Doyle said the O’Dea strength coach is doing the same for his Irish baseball team that played for the Class 3A state title a year ago, finishing second to Lake Washington. As a private school, O’Dea has a unique challenge.
“It’s really hard to track them down,” Doyle said. “We have guys coming from like 90 different ZIP codes. I don’t know how many different schools they came from. But if we have 2-3 guys from any one school area, that’s a lot.”
That leaves family and maybe one close friend for athletes to practice with right now.
“I have a couple of pairs of sisters on the team,” Fox said. “So they can throw together.”
Should these preparation measures be rewarded with a shortened version of a season, the season will be reset. That would mean all teams and players would need to get in 10 practices before any competition could happen.
“That’s been the question,” Fox said. “But everybody resets. Everybody is in the same boat.”
A shortened time frame to get athletes ready puts another concern in the minds of these coaches.
“You’re not going to get the sharpest quality,” Doyle said. “But you are going to see passion. What might be the biggest challenge is holding guys back so they don’t hurt themselves.”
In the end, coaches know more than wins and losses are at stake here.
“The girls would probably just be very excited to be with each other,” Fox said.
“A lot of high-level kids will have more opportunities,” Brady said. “But you lose those little moments. It’s those lost memories from the bus trips, being together. It’s not just about medals and titles.”
“I’m hoping,” Doyle said. “The game hasn’t been rained out yet.”