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franklin county times

What is future for high school sports?

What will the future of high school and youth sports look like when they return?

That is a question I’ve been asking myself for the past couple of weeks. I’m not a doctor or a virologist, and I don’t pretend to be either one; however, I do read a lot of credible articles and listen to expert voices – and the more I read and listen, the more pessimistic I become.

Believe me, I want everything to be back to normal as soon as possible.

I have a son who will be a senior at Tharptown High School. He plays basketball. He loves basketball. It is his only sport. He missed most of his junior year because of an ACL injury. I want him to play; I want him to have a normal, uninterrupted senior basketball season.

But I also told him to be prepared that it just might not happen.

A month ago, I thought baseball and softball would have been restarted by now – or, at the least, they would be playing area and state tournaments.

I thought high school golf would continue. I thought track meets would go on.

Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.

It’s all over, with current seniors having no chance to regain their last season.

I get it. I don’t believe in conspiracies. I believe it was the right call. There are too many lives at stake.

This is a very serious issue that likely won’t be resolved until a vaccine is available – and most believe that is 12 months at the earliest.

Well, that’s this time next year.

The NBA started the closure of sports when two players from the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus. It was a cascade of major closures from there: March Madness, Major League Baseball, the PGA, SEC Spring sports, the Olympics.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association worked in conjunction with the Alabama State Department of Education to suspend play before ultimately cancelling the remainder of spring sports with the closure of schools.

Starting sports back will not be that easy of a call for the AHSAA.  Schools will likely reopen in August, but even that will not be a normal start up. Who knows where we will be with the virus in August?

If we reopen with social distancing in mind, like many have said, how does a school do that?

Do teachers and students have to wear masks? Do we have to check everyone’s temperature at the door? Disney is looking at doing it; how can a school not do it?

This is an article for another day. Back to sports.

The AHSAA is still planning on having All-Star Sports Week in July, where rising seniors from across the state convene in Montgomery and play all-star games.

I just don’t see that happening. The AHSAA can’t do anything until they see how professional sports leagues and the Southeastern Conference address these issues. They simply don’t have better information than those entities.

If Major League Baseball’s main option appears to be quarantining all 30 of their teams in Arizona, keeping players and coaches and staff in a virus-free dome and playing in empty ballparks, then how will the AHSAA be able to justify close contact sports like football and basketball being played in a normal setting?

They can’t.

“I would be very nervous about having any sports, whether it’s football or basketball or even baseball,” Dr. Richard Jackson, a former CDC official and professor emeritus at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, told the Los Angeles Times.

Leagues are even talking about testing all of their players and coaches to ensure a virus-free environment and isolating them in hotels or dorms. That doesn’t seem workable for even a professional league or the Southeastern Conference; there is no way it’s an option for several hundred high schools across the state of Alabama and the thousands across the nation.

Do school systems and the AHSAA want to take on the liability of restarting sports only to have one person contract the virus and spread it quickly to thousands?

I don’t think so.

I hope the curve bends rapidly and disappears soon. I hope the virus vanishes with the heat of the summer. I hope we can get back some semblance of normalcy quickly.

As someone who loves sports and writes about sports, I want sports to happen. As a parent of a rising senior, I need sports to happen.

As a realist, I am hoping for the best but I’m preparing for the worst.