When the LHSAA announced its decision to push back the start of its summer-rules season to June 8, there were mixed reviews.
Some applauded the move announced Wednesday night. Others sharply criticized it, saying it deprives athletes of valuable time to train and participate in school-based summer leagues that have long been a cornerstone of high school sports.
Just another day in the life of the LHSAA, where every decision is scrutinized and there is seldom a consensus. Well … not exactly.
Making decisions — often some that schools, coaches and parents dislike — is part of the LHSAA’s job. In its own way, the LHSAA fills the role of the adult in the room who is charged with weighing things from a comprehensive point of view.
What makes this situation unique is the bone of contention — the COVID-19 pandemic. It has changed the way of life for all of us in just over two months. It is an invisible obstacle.
Like everyone else involved in high school sports, I would be happy if I could take a baseball bat to it or shove it off a cliff. Every sportswriter in the state would rather be covering baseball title games this weekend.
Sure, online popularity polls to determine who the best player is/was at each position or which school has the coolest-looking helmet or uniforms provide a nice distraction, but they don’t replace what we’re missing — sports and the camaraderie they bring.
Coaches feel this loss on so many levels. That is why I empathize with them. Earlier this month, Central football coach Sid Edwards sent me a long text. In it, he correctly said sports are the one thing “distance” does not fit.
His text said in part, “Sure, technology is great. But you cannot love from a distance, which is what our jobs are all about at the end of the day.”
Edwards does not downplay the importance of education. No coach should. Coaches often find that their student-athletes seek caring and attention. I had multiple coaches tell me how great Zoom meetings are. But in the next sentence, they talk about missing eye-to-eye contact.
Another coach, Live Oak’s Jesse Cassard, was vocal about his opposition to the LHSAA’s decision to delay all workouts by school-based teams. Though he mentioned the fact that no one would be ready to play when teams can practice, another phrase caught my attention — “We should be able to get our kids back.”
If it were only that simple. I want it to be that way. The problem with an invisible threat such as the coronavirus is that we can’t banish it to a dungeon or eradicate it right now. Over the past four months, COVID-19 has been politicized and debated.
Those who have friends or relatives working on the front lines in hospitals and other care facilities have seen it end and upend lives. The same is true for those who have lost family or friends.
And while the risk is considered lower for healthy younger people — such as high school athletes — an element of risk remains. By delaying LHSAA summer rules until Phase 2 of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ reopening of Louisiana, schools will have a chance to fine-tune plans for sanitizing equipment, and groups of 25 should be allowed to gather.
This might sound like a political smoke screen. Remember, this is new territory for everyone. The NCAA and some pro sports have not figured it out yet, either.
Back to the adult in the room role. When I spoke with LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine last week, he lamented the loss of sports, but came back to one other point stressed by health experts.
“All it would take would be for one kid or one coach to get sick,” Bonine said. “Where would we be then?”
None of us want to be in that position.