Local athletic directors react to postponement

Herald File Photo
Northeast Dubois head and athletic director Terry Friedman led his team to a sectional championship this season before the remainder of the state tournament was cancelled.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

DUBOIS COUNTY — Unprecedented. Shocking. Surreal. Unlike anything that’s come before.

Those are a few of the sentiments shared by the local athletic directors as they grapple with the possibility of not having a spring sports season at their schools. Such is the impact of the coronavirus in Dubois County, even without a diagnosed case as of yet.

But with Thursday’s announcement that schools will remain closed until May 1, the chance for spring sports seems to grow smaller with each new development.

“I haven’t seen this in my lifetime, much less my 18 years as an athletic director,” said Forest Park athletic director Doug Louden. “We’ve had wet springs where you’re canceling games and moving games around, but this is so much bigger than that.”

Southridge athletic director Brett Bardwell recalled a combination of a bad winter and an energy crisis throwing off sports schedules while he was a high school junior in the late 1970s. The storm closed schools for a few weeks and delayed the state basketball tournament, but Bardwell said that still doesn’t compare to what’s happening now.

“We played the sectionals at the normal time,” he said. “But because of the energy crisis, they didn’t play the regionals for three or four weeks. I remember playing a baseball game on a Saturday the same day that regional was being played in basketball.”

That will not be the case this season. The Indiana High School Athletic Association canceled the rest of this year’s boys basketball state tournament for the first time in its history with the extension of the school closures on Thursday afternoon. The Northeast Dubois and Heritage Hills boys basketball teams were preparing for regionals when games were initially postponed March 13. Athletic directors for both schools shared their thoughts on the matter before the IHSAA made its decision.

“Everything happened so fast,” said Heritage Hills athletic director Jay Burch. “We were right in the middle of our state basketball tournament. There was excitement around the school having the best team we’ve ever had. For that to all of a sudden come to a halt was strange.”

“I told them as soon as anything changed, I’d be back in contact with them,” added Terry Friedman, who also coaches the Jeeps boys basketball team and predicted that the chances of the tournament resuming were “slim” before it was canceled. “We’re just kind of moving forward with our lives.”

The athletic directors sympathized with their student-athletes. Each passing day seems to shrink the prospects of a spring season, and for some students, that could mean they won’t get a chance to compete for their schools one more time before they graduate.

“I think about the senior athletes that may or may not get a chance to have a senior season,” Jasper AD Brian Lewis said. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen the longer we’re out. Sports is not the most important thing, but it’s a big part of these kids’ career and memories. You hate to see that go by the wayside.”

Then there’s the issue of the financial impact of canceling spring sports. With the possibility of no games being held, the ADs said their schools would be impacted to various degrees — though it would be much worse if this crisis had occured in the fall or winter. Still, there are other groups that would be negatively impacted if spring sports were to be canceled.

“Your spring sports crowds are generally not your bigger crowds,” Bardwell said. “It could impact some other groups. Our band does baseball and track concessions, so it’s going to impact them. It’s going to impact officials and umpires. There would be somewhat of an impact on our community if we do not get to host the sectional and regional. There you get a nice amount of people to come in.”

But money isn’t the biggest concern on their minds at this time. The ADs all said their first priority is acting in the best interest and safety for their kids, even if it means no sports. They’ll continue to abide by whatever guidelines the authorities issue. Some have taken steps to prepare themselves for the worst. Others hold out a bit of hope that some kind of season, even a shortened one, is possible.

“We’re taking it one step at a time,” Burch said. “We’re not sure when it’ll start back up. We’re hopeful it could be sooner rather than later. I’m naturally optimistic, so I’ve prepared our coaching staff that at any time they’re going to get back out practicing with the kids. And that’s the way we’re looking at it.”




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