Timeout on the field
If this were a normal year, the Granbury Lady Pirate soccer team would be starting its playoff run, golf and tennis squads across the county would be gearing up for district meets, and baseball and softball teams would be well underway in district play.
But this is not a normal year.
In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University Interscholastic League, which oversees all public school athletic and academic competitions in Texas, suspended all events until March 29. The Texas Association of Parochial and Private Schools (TAPPS), which covers many of the private schools in Texas, will keep its suspension going until at least April 12.
“We are urging our member schools and their communities to stay vigilant and take every possible precaution to remain safe and healthy,” said UIL Executive Director Charles Breithaupt in a press release.
“We understand there is a lot of uncertainty during this unprecedented time. Please know UIL leadership is working diligently to adjust to this rapidly evolving situation and will share updates as soon as possible.”
That decision was announced Friday. The boys state basketball championship was being held in San Antonio last week; the UIL suspended play there Thursday afternoon during the semifinals, and a makeup date has not been announced.
It’s this type of fast-moving situation that is causing stress on athletic directors and their coaches and students.
“We’re definitely in a reactive mode,” Granbury ISD athletic director Dwight Butler said. “We’re all just flying by the seat of our pants.
“It’s definitely something that’s unprecedented. Everybody is just trying to feel their way through this and do the best they know how.”
Tolar ISD athletic director Jeremy Mullins said the ongoing crisis has led him to lean on a mantra known as “e+r=o,” which stands for “event plus response equals outcome.”
“In baseball, if you hit a batter, that’s the event,” Mullins said. “Now how are you going to respond as a pitcher?
“This is a real life situation. How are you going to respond? What we can control, we better respond in the most positive way we can.”
Butler and Mullins both said they agreed with the UIL’s decision to suspend play.
“Absolutely,” Butler said. “If we’re not going to have school, we definitely don’t need to be having athletics.
“And until we get a better handle on how bad this thing is going to get, we don’t need to put our kids in any danger.”
Mullins said that he “isn’t the guy that needs to be making any of those decisions,” but thinks the UIL was left with no other choice.
“I think we’re at a point where if you don’t do something, then the rest of the world is going to look at you like you’re crazy,” Mullins said. “Everybody is erring on the side of caution.”
Sports leagues worldwide have suspended play. No major professional league in the United States is active, and the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament was canceled for the first time in history.
While the targeted UIL restart date is March 29, the uncertainty of the situation and the increasingly stringent recommendations from organizations like the Center for Disease Control have put that deadline at risk.
“First it was no more groups of 250 (people),” Butler said. “Now that’s changed to 50 or more.
“So you basically have eliminated everything. When you get to 50 or more, even tennis matches have more than 50 people.”
If the suspension is extended, that would put the final seasons of high school senior athletes in serious jeopardy.
“It’s a shame for any athlete that spends all that time - and the coaches, also,” Butler said. “This has been their second life.
“This just shows that there’s definitely something bigger than athletics. And we need to make sure that we’re more concerned about their health and well-being before athletics or any other kind of event, for that matter.”
“It’s very unfortunate for any athlete at this time, and for anybody in school,” Mullins said. “You hate it.
“For a high school senior, they don’t have the opportunity to come back and do it again next year.”
Practices and rehearsals were originally permitted on a district-by-district basis, but the UIL reversed that decision and issued a total participation suspension in a Monday announcement.
Mullins stressed the importance of staying as active as possible during the closing, and sent out a home workout to his athletes.
“At some point, sports are going to happen again,” he said. “You can sit at home and eat Cheetos and watch Netflix for a month, or you can find some way in your boundaries to stay active.”