When will sports return?
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s been nearly two months (can that be right?) since I covered a high-school sports event.
It was a fairly typical spring afternoon, meaning I was hopping all across the county, covering everything I possibly could.
It was such a strange week.
At the start of the week, sure we were all aware of the coronavirus, but it seemed like a distant threat, something that had little impact on our day-to-day lives.
Life, including sports, went on as usual at the start of that week, and even as late as Wednesday, there was no indication of how drastically things were about to change.
Callaway and LaGrange played a baseball game on a Wednesday afternoon on March 11, with hundreds of folks (no social distancing) enjoying the festivities on a postcard-perfect day.
I looked back at the story I wrote from that game, and there was no mention of the coronavirus, no hint of what was about to come.
Things were changing, though.
As the sports world began to shut down, it became obvious by Thursday of that week that high-school athletics weren’t going to continue.
It became official on that Thursday afternoon when the Troup County School System announced that all extra-curricular activities would be suspended beginning the following day.
On March 13, the playing fields of Troup County fell silent, and they’ve remained that way for eight weeks now.
The spring-sports seasons were at first suspended, but the inevitable happened in early April when they were officially canceled.
I didn’t think there was anything that could surprise me after nearly 30 years in this business, but I did not see that coming.
So that brings us to the present day where we live in a world without sports (although they’ve started playing baseball again in Korea, so that’s something).
The question everyone is asking is when will sports return, and when it does return what will it look like?
The truthful answer is, no one knows.
The high-school sports seasons (football, volleyball, cross country and cheerleading) are scheduled to begin in August.
Will those seasons go on as scheduled?
I believe they will, but again, there are no sure things, not in these times.
If the plan is to have sports this fall, then when will the teams be able to get together this summer?
Georgia High School Association executive director Robin Hines has stated that June is a strong possibility, and I’m hoping that’s the case.
With football specifically, the players and coaches need that time together to prepare for a season that begins in three months.
The summer is such an important time, and those months will be even more critical this year since there was no spring practice.
It has to be done the right way, though.
The coronavirus will not be gone by the summer, so the task will be to lessen the risk, to make sure the student-athletes are taken care of.
Troup head football coach Tanner Glisson is having online meetings with parents this week, and that’s an issue he’ll discuss with them.
“I have a long list of things to go over, and how we’re going to adjust, and what we’re going to do about sanitation,” Glisson said.
That’s a conversation all of the coaches will no doubt be having with parents in the coming weeks and months as we prepare for the sports world to re-open.
I can say with certainty that all of the coaches in Troup County will do things the right way, and that the well-being of the student-athletes in their care will be priority number one.
The coaches aren’t just going to open the doors, or unlock the gates, and return to business as usual.
The risks can’t be eliminated, but precautions can be taken, and the good thing is coaches and administrators have had plenty of time to prepare for what things will look like when sports do return.
So, where do we stand with high-school sports?
Keeping in mind things can change on a dime, I believe teams will be given the go-ahead this summer to resume in-person training, and that games will be played this fall.
I sure hope that’s the case.
Troup is supposed to host Newnan in a preseason game on Aug. 7, and I know it would do my heart good to be standing on the sideline at Callaway Stadium on that night, watching a football game.
I don’t know when (or if) things will return to normal, but having sports back would be a nice step in that direction.
It needs to be done right, and I have no doubt here in Troup County it will be.
Come back sports. We need you.