Corona Virus Quarantine #139: To Play or Not to Play!: August 6, 2020:
I feel like there is no end to the discussion about whether or not we will have school or sports in the fall. I am in conversations every. single. day. These conversations involve other area coaches, coaches at the collegiate level, coaches in the club sector, coaches who coach other sports, as well as administrators.
I will never grow tired of talking about sports…but I am growing weary of the uncertainty surrounding it. I’m not looking to start an argument, rather to share information and catalog this history for many years down the road when we revisit 2020. So please take all of this with a grain of salt…I am in many ways laying out all of the discussions I’ve had in the passing months, again, to be clear, not starting an argument.
From what I can tell there seem to be two camps of people, the ones that think the risk is too great…and those that think we should let the kids play. I have not had a lot of conversations with people who lie in the gray area between these two spaces, or any conversations of that nature for that matter. The only thing that is crystal clear is that there is no single person who is making the decisions.
That being said, there is a lack of leadership as to what should happen and if sports do start, what exactly they look like. This lack of leadership is no one persons fault it is largely because there is no sports “czar”. It isn’t KSHSAA’s or any state associations job to mandate or regulate something like this because it’s a public health crisis and those decisions go to the county or local government.
So, for example, what may be a great recommendation for a smaller 1A school that lives in an area that is largely unaffected by this pandemic, full go back into sports as normal works for them. For the larger 5 and 6A schools that live in counties that have the highest infection rates (i.e. Johnson County) that same plan may not work. Hence, the predicament.
Let’s look at tournaments as an example. At St. James we play in 4 tournaments per season. This amounts to anywhere between 16-24 matches (which is half or more of all the matches we would play in any given season). For Johnson County schools it seems that tournaments are not going to be a good idea. At some of these tournaments there are as many as 16 teams. Most teams carry a roster of about 12 girls. That’s 192 girls in one place. This does not include any staff (officials, scores people, line judges) or parents. So even if every kid gets only one parent attendee, you are looking at another 192 people. With staff and parents, we are looking at about roughly 400 people in one place. Given the recommendations from medical professionals, this seems like a bad idea.
However, no one wants to make the call to call tournaments off for the season. I have heard some schools will allow tournaments, others who will not and some that are on the fence and waiting to see what other schools do. This whole situation is like a kicking of the can or passing of the buck. KSHSAA recommends nothing larger than quad, but it’s not a mandate, so it’s up to the schools or coaches to decide. I’m telling you, as a coach, we don’t want to be the ones making these decisions.
So, I’m back to my original point…we need a sports czar.
Technically speaking these decisions should made by the State Board of Education, but they don’t want to touch this either. So, who makes the decisions? That, my friends, is the question of the day.
Then let’s take into consideration if one of our players on one individual on any given team gets infected. If we aren’t properly social distancing or wearing masks at all times our whole program is shut down for a minimum of 10 days or 2 negative tests. I was tested a month ago and it took 2 weeks to get my results, which were negative. With this in mind, the implication or rule as it is now written is that my volleyball players will have to compete in a mask if I do not want our who program to be shut down from one positive test.
We can’t get people to wear a mask at Wal Mart…but I’m telling you that if this means the kids get to play, they will wear these masks and play the game.
Some would argue, many that I’ve talked to, that if playing sports means kids are playing in a mask, then they shouldn’t be happening. I know many have similar feelings about schools being open. I’ll let you make up your own mind here.
Which brings me to my next point, if kids are playing in a mask, we will need more time outs. They will get winded more quickly, need more water breaks. Should the game in volleyball still go to 25; Or should we only play until 15? I realize the implications that would have on the outcome of the matches but at the end of the day if the goal is to give kids the opportunity to play, I’m willing to bet kids and parents will do whatever is asked.
Who makes that decision? Again…we need a sports czar.
Then let’s look at the option that many states are moving towards, moving the season to the spring. Before everyone freaks out, this does NOT mean it replaces spring sports or interferes with winter sports for those schools that share athletes. It means that winter, fall and spring seasons are all played in the second semester. The seasons are shorter, but they get their seasons in and have a chance to compete in the post season for their school. Of course, with this option there is the concern that corona doesn’t get better or even gets worse but to me, if fall sports start and stops, this seems like a viable alternative. Certainly, a better option than no season at all or half a season.
Many states have already moved to this model, including Colorado, California, Delaware, Illinois, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon and Virginia. Some of these states being hot beds of volleyball talent…so it can be done and how it works out remains to be seen. With this model the kids would arguably play their winter, fall and spring sports and not have to choose…
Then we have the club problem with this model of all sports being played second semester. Club seasons are well underway in the spring and they will not want to give up 6-8 weeks with their athletes. Logically the kids could not manage a high school season and a club season at the same time. That would be hard on their bodies and not in their best interest. So, the worry lies in the fact that many people feel kids would have to choose between high school and club…But I’d ask why?
This is an unusual year; these are uncertain times. If the kids get to have a high school season, why would clubs stand in the way? If we have no fall season, kids will be at the clubs playing, when they normally wouldn’t be. Couldn’t we argue that the clubs could take that 6-8 weeks off keeping in mind of course that kids are still playing volleyball (more of it actually, because high schools practice every day) and that they could pick up where they left off when the high school seasons are over and still have time to train for their end of the season tournaments. If someone mentions money here…then you are completely missing the point.
Is this perfect for the clubs or the high schools? No, of course not. But, this is an example of how adults could work together to do what’s best for the kids in a time that is unprecedented and will hopefully (GOD willing) will never be repeated. I’d like to think that we’d be capable of that.
Again…a sports czar would be helpful.
Which brings me to my next point…many argue that if they shut down high school sports the kids will be playing anyways (which is absolutely true, unless the Governor shuts down all businesses). In other words, we aren’t really protecting them by shutting down high school sports because the clubs will just host open gyms and start club practices in the fall. For a high school coach that may be the scariest prospect of them all…as no one wants to see an end to high school sports. I’d fight anyone (not physically of course) on the importance of high school athletics. There is nothing like winning a state championship for your school or learning the value of representing something bigger than yourself (this is also what they do when they play in college, so the value can’t be overstated).
Now…here is where “club only” people say winning Nationals or AAU is better or more significant. I can say (in a totally not bragging way) I have won both as a player…and while both were totally awesome, winning a state title for my school can’t be touched. Hell, I even hit the final ball in the National Championship we won for Second City back in the day (in Kansas City) at Junior Nationals and I still remember the whole of that high school state championship in more clear and vivid detail.
My point…they were both awesome. Don’t take one away from the kids and MOST importantly don’t put kids between two adults who aren’t looking out for what is best for the kid. Let them play high school and let them play club. Why can’t these two organizations work more closely together to put the best interest of the athlete first.
Again…sports czar needed.
Then people will say it’s about recruiting. Yea, again in a totally non-braggy sort of way, I have had a lot of experience here too. Both my sister and I played collegiately. Many of my friends played collegiately and we have sent many players off to play collegiately. If you are good enough, coaches find you, whether or not you are on the best club or high school team. Period. Look at Lexi Hart. Anyone know her? Yep. She was a 3-time collegiate All American at Minnesota. Also, she was a three-sport athlete in high school. Her club worked with her and allowed her to miss some things so she could play all those sports for her school (which, I wish I could say we can all agree, but I know better, was in her best interest). She was and is pretty awesome and when she was a freshman, I watched her play a high school match where she hit mostly high 2 balls and was early every time. She turned out ok.
Furthermore, college recruiting will look wildly different in the coming year because of the corona virus. Universities don’t have the budgets, there are no official visits. I was on a call just today where college coaches were educating high school coaches on their elevated importance in the recruiting process because it will look so much different in the coming year.
My point, maybe the corona virus is giving us an opportunity to rewrite the narrative and people who really care about the athletes and their future can have constructive conversations about what is best for them. I know I’m game for more of that!
I want to see kids out on the fields and courts just as bad as anyone and the truth of the matter is that no one wants to make the call and I totally get it. This is unchartered territory for all of us. But this is a weird year, one that 20 years from now we will use as an adjective for a bad day. “How was your day dear? Oh, it was totally 2020.” Understood…you had a crappy day. So, let’s think outside the box, let’s stop arguing, pointing fingers, drowning in uncertainty and let’s have meaningful dialogue to make this happen for our kids.
In Dorsey children news…trips to Grandma’s mean trips to Aunt Laura’s pool and playing fetch with Sammy! Good times!
We also get to jump on hay bales and learn about farming from Grandpa. The boys had some good stories about their lessons on corn!
We build cool towers with building blocks that we are pretty sure no longer exist too! A huge thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for having the boys. They came home very happy and tired which are all the signs of a very good time! Our kids are blessed to have grandparents on both sides…something I never had. It warms my heart so much they are so blessed.
Also, not pictured…Fletcher has a loose tooth. One he’s been working on getting out ALL day. He also got all his stickers on his behavior chart…a first for him. So tomorrow we will celebrate by taking him to his favorite place (with a mask and social distanced) the Dollar Store. I promise…in our house right now, we need to celebrate the little things with is child. A no X mark kind of day is a straight up party!