Locals react to cancellation of spring sportsApril 4, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
T.S. Eliot wrote in his poem “The Waste Land” that “April is the cruelest month.”
Local sports figures might agree with that statement after Thursday, following the Indiana High School Athletic Association cancelling spring sports as COVID-19 continues to escalate in the state. The decision came following the announcement that all schools in the state would be closed for the rest of the year. All spring sports were wiped away before they ever got off the ground.
For Suchi Bandaru, this was it. The Jasper senior got to the state semifinals in tennis last year with junior Josie Yarbrough. It’s the only sport Bandaru plays, and she doesn’t intend to continue her career in college. She keenly anticipated her senior campaign, but her last memory competing for Jasper tennis is walking off the court after falling to Carmel, just two wins away from a state doubles championship with someone she is close with.
“We’ve been childhood best friends since we were little,” Bandaru said. “Getting the opportunity to play together last year, we already had a connection. We played doubles ever since we were little together and all our local tournaments, and would even play in Evansville and Indy and places like that and all the tournaments around here. So, whenever, we were paired up together, I think that’s where the chemistry came from.”
Yarbrough had been wanting to go back to school, to go to practice, but now she’ll get to do neither. The best friends both cried over it multiple times while calling and texting each other.
“It’s hard because I was looking through my pictures the other day and it was all of last season, and then it just kind of hit me that I’m not going to have a season this year,” Yarbrough said. “I think those memories, we want to hold onto them more because we know we’re not going to have one this year, especially with the whole doubles run with Suchi.”
Forest Park baseball coach Jarred Howard was to return to man the Rangers for his 20th season, but he did not know on Thursday afternoon what he was going to say to his players in the wake of finding out there wouldn’t be a season.
“Our guys have worked extremely hard this winter, and we were all excited about playing,” Howard said.
Howard first thought the best case scenario would be a return to normalcy in a couple of weeks, but things got worse both in Indiana and in America. He tried staying positive and told his players to stay ready in case the season happened. Howard wasn’t sure how the team was doing, but added sophomore son Drew did work off of a tee at their house, and threw with his eighth grade brother, Reid.
The toughest part for him is not getting to coach the seniors and seeing them enjoy their senior year experience. He noted how hard they worked in the weight room and open gym sessions.
“That’s the biggest disappointment for me,” he said. “The other guys are going to have an opportunity to play.”
Longtime voice of Southridge athletics Kurt Gutgsell admits it’s going to be an adjustment not going to League Stadium this year to broadcast another season of Raiders baseball. He never thought this would’ve happened three or four weeks ago. The only other thing he could think of that has made an impact on games is the weather, and even then, it wasn’t to this extent.
Gutgsell knows how important sports are in the area and the importance it has in people’s lives. The hardest part for him personally is not getting to be around the people he’s usually with.
“You can’t beat the people around here that you get to cover, and that’s just going to be the weird part,” Gutgsell said. “You anticipate seeing certain people. You anticipate being around people that you’re comfortable with and having the same interests that you do, and that’s what sports are all about around here.”
Southridge was originally supposed to open its season Wednesday at Indiana University, which Gutgsell said everyone was looking forward to. He knows how hard it is to see athletes and coaches suffer. Gutgsell can’t imagine what the players are going through at this point. It might not be important in the grand scheme of things, but it is to the student-athletes at this stage in their lives.
“I hope people are compassionate to that because whether it’d be playing their sport, going through graduation or going to the prom, it’s a big deal in their lives,” he said. “I just hope people can sympathize with that as we move forward here because it’s a tough break for all those kids.”
Northeast Dubois athletic director Terry Friedman has seen the whole spring as an adjustment for teachers, coaches and students. School kept getting pushed back, and Friedman had a feeling of what was coming next.
Friedman initially had a wait-and-see approach, also hoping to reschedule games as school got moved back. The toughest part for him is knowing the athletes can’t go out and compete.
“Spring sports are a big deal,” Friedman said. “We have girls tennis, baseball, softball, boys and girls track — spring sports involves probably as many athletes in our school as any other season. So, the numbers that are affected are much larger.”
He’s used this hiatus as an opportunity to work ahead by scheduling games and hiring officials for next year. Friedman talked about this being an unprecedented situation with nothing to go back on and how something is supposed to be done. He said it’s a matter of turning to experience, falling back on expertise and taking things on a day-by-day basis.
“Hopefully someday we’re going to be back to normal,” he said. “Hopefully, when fall rolls around, we’ll be back in school and out doing the things we love to do.”
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