And so we continue to wait.
That elusive clarity we seek for Louisiana’s fall high school sports seasons did not happen last week. And it might not happen until sometime early next month in this coronavirus pandemic world.
No musical analogy is needed here, but as usual I have one. The lyrics to the late Tom Petty’s “The Waiting” circles through my head along with other thoughts.
“It’s like being in an airplane in a storm at night with no navigation system,” one coach told me last week. “And it’s not just us; it’s all sports. The SEC has not made a decision. The SWAC has decided to play football in the spring. This is all over the place.”
Yes, it is. To me, it feels like sports may be missing navigation systems and landing gear as it attempts to take flight for the fall season.
But for Louisiana coaches, parents and athletes, the hardest part of this week was watching other states issue at least somewhat structured plans for fall.
Alabama, for example, is hopeful it can start seasons on time. Georgia pushed its football season two weeks. Texas’ public school-based UIL announced football for its largest classifications, 6A and 5A, will begin five weeks later.
The Florida High School Athletic Association’s board met multiple times last week, tempering plans to start its football season on time, with the realization that a spike in COVID-19 cases has prompted school districts to push back the start of classes.
Right now, an open-ended commitment to a fall season the LHSAA has stated now multiple times is all we have. And there are certainly days when that may not seem like much.
“If people think we’re in here sitting on our hands, I can assure people that is not the case,” LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine said recently.
While I understand the LHSAA process better than most, I also know it is be easy to become disenchanted. Even tough plans are being made for multiple sports within the walls of the LHSAA offices.
Much like the situation in Florida, Louisiana’s parameters for school in the fall continue to evolve as school districts announce plans.
Football coaches and other groups have championed a long-running dialogue of options for the fall. This has prompted debate. As the LHSAA’s official fall practice date of Aug. 10 nears, projecting those talking points as reality seems natural, I suppose.
But there is nothing natural about this fall or the COVID-19 circumstances that put us here. I have seen the posts by people who ask why the LHSAA can’t conduct its plans the way travel-ball teams have this summer. It is a fair question.
Though the LHSAA is a private organization, it follows the guidelines set down by state education leaders. Bonine told the Legislature as much two weeks ago. The fact that those education guidelines are part of legislation that was signed into law earlier this month makes a difference.
I know, this is so messy. We want it to be over. We all want the LHSAA’s student-athletes to practice and play, but there is more to sort out as schools morph into models with online and in-person learning.
Who will be eligible? Calcasieu Parish’s leadership voted to allow full-time virtual students to participate in extracurricular activities, including sports. Much closer to home, Livingston Parish school leaders decided against that option.
Not to mention, when will games begin and who will be able to attend them? Bonine has already alluded to the fact that sports such as volleyball, cross country and swimming could start first. Football players need added time to acclimate not just to the heat, but also to the physicality of a full-contact sport.
Of course, that can’t happen begin to happen until Louisiana gets past Phase 2 of its COVID-19 reopening to Phase 3 where contact sports can ramp up.
Here’s hoping for Phase 3 ASAP. And to quote the same Tom Petty song, “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part.”