By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
MIAMI COUNTY — With the first official spring sports events being lost and the start of the season postponed even longer now, schools are being creative and finding ways to keep their student-athletes connected and engaged.
“All of our coaches have adopted a similar concept to the one the teachers are using with virtual learning,” Troy High School Athletic Director Dave Palmer said. “They’re doing the same kinds of things with their teams — keeping in touch, making sure they’re staying healthy, sending them workout ideas they can do at home and just staying in contact socially, through virtual means, for their mental well-being. That way they can still feel connected to their coach and their teammates, still feel like they’re part of the team, instead of feeling like they’re stuck at their homes by themselves.”
And as far as spring sports are concerned, the Ohio High School Athletic Association says there’s still a chance.
Tuesday night, OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass released a memo to the organization’s member schools following Monday’s extension of the closure of the state’s schools by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to May 1. And while the cancellation of the season is still a possibility, the OHSAA is keeping the door open for a shortened season due to the effects of the global pandemic caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19.
Still, Snodgrass made clear the OHSAA’s top priority in all of this — the health of the children and everyone else involved in putting on a sporting event.
“Under no circumstances will we compromise the safety of student-athletes, coaches, officials, game workers or fans,” he said. “Everyone in the schools is aware of the extremely fluid situation, and we will continue to update you as things change.”
March 13 was the last day Ohio’s schools were open, as DeWine ordered them closed until April 3 at the time in an effort to slow the spread of the pandemic. Following that, the OHSAA postponed the winter sports postseason tournaments — which were in progress at the time — and postponed the start of spring sports until the schools were to reopen on April 6.
But as the pandemic has spread rapidly, things changed. On March 26, the OHSAA announced the official cancellation of the winter sports tournaments. And on Monday, DeWine extended the closure of the schools until Friday, May 1. Shortly after on Monday, the OHSAA extended spring sports’ postponement.
In Tuesday’s statement, Snodgrass said the OHSAA was extending the no-contact period until May 1, as well as not allowing any practices or competitions until that date. He offered more clarification, too, saying, “the no-contact regulation was never intended to discourage or prohibit electronic communication with student-athletes. For the mental well-being of student-athletes, it is actually encouraged, but it is not intended for coaches to encourage any form of group gatherings or instruction.
“We applaud all of you for helping with providing guidance and leadership to your coaches with the request they speak with their student-athletes (electronically, of course) to convey to them the seriousness of the current crisis and an understanding that all of us are in this together and understand their emotions and desire to ‘get back.’”
Palmer said his coaches are making the most of the situation, much like every other school.
“If there’s some good coming out of this, we’re all doing more things to stay connected with one another,” he said. “In the classroom, teachers aren’t just emailing kids assignments. They’re meeting up with the kids virtually through things like Google Meet and Zoom. And our coaches have been innovative in what they’re doing, too.
“We’re all usually so busy and wrapped up in everything we need to work on. This gives us an opportunity to get back to human connection. The kids are missing out on the camaraderie that you have being part of a team, and we wanted to make sure we’re keeping that part of the experience, even if it is virtual.”
And the coaches have been creative, too. Over the weekend, Troy girls track coach Kurt Snyder tweeted a “virtual” track meet using the athletes’ available statistics since the scheduled opening-day meet could not take place.
“Our coaches are being innovative in what they’re doing. There’s nothing like going to a real track meet or game, sure, but we take what’s available and use it,” Palmer said. “We challenged our coaches to set up virtual meetings with their teams, too, even if it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes a day. We wanted them to give the kids a locker room pep talk with each of their teams and just use it as an opportunity to talk.
“We want our coaches to continue to challenge our athletes to stay busy and to keep up on their classroom work”
And it’s not just the kids in the situation, either.
“We had our monthly Miami Valley League meeting yesterday through Zoom,” Palmer said. “We just wanted to connect with each other, so we had a virtual meeting with everyone and talked about the possibilities of what we can do in May if sports can come back. Of course, there’s a lot of time in April between now and then. But we’re going to continue to plan for all of the potential scenarios and do whatever we can to provide opportunities for our spring athletes and coaches.”
In the end, that’s what everyone wants — the chance to play together.
“Nobody likes the situation we’re in. But obviously, with the numbers that the governor’s office and the state health department provide, what we’re doing with social distancing is working,” Palmer said. “Not that we’re on a downhill trend yet, but it’s helping to slow it down. What we need to do is continue to do our part, ride it out — and hopefully we can get back together in May.”
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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