Coronavirus puts spring sports on hold

Teams adjusting on the fly, hoping for best
Bonduel’s athletic director Matt Dale looks at the school’s athletic calendar on his computer on Tuesday at Bonduel High School. With the spring sports season on hold, most athletic calendars are full of postponements and cancellations.

Morgan Rode | NEW Media
By: 
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

SHAWANO — A little over a week ago, the thought of the coronavirus affecting anything in the area was likely a distant thought to most individuals. Within a span of a couple days, the impact of the virus completely changed the lives of many, including those in the sports world.

After the suspensions of the NBA and MLB seasons and the cancellation of the NCAA men’s and women’s conference and national tournaments, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association started taking action.

On the morning of March 12, the WIAA announced that girls and boys basketball tournament games would have a limited number of fans (88 tickets per team) in attendance.

Boys sectional semifinal games and girls Division 3 and 4 state games were all played later that day, but following the completion of the state games, the WIAA made the decision to cancel the remainder of the basketball seasons, meaning no state champions would be crowned.

On March 13, high school sports got a bit of good news, with the WIAA announcing that spring sports would proceed, based on school and conference decisions. But hours later, Gov. Tony Evers ordered the closure of all schools — which was set to go into affect on Wednesday — and delayed the start of spring sports.

The prospect of having a spring sports season took another blow on Tuesday when Evers indefinitely closed schools. Should schools reopen and the spring sports season not be canceled, high school teams must practice for a week before participating in games or events.

First-year Bonduel athletic director Matt Dale admitted that even though the delay to spring sports gave him a break from a usually busy schedule, he would much rather have a hectic schedule and the high school athletes practicing and competing.

“Usually these type of things happen from the ground up, meaning high school sports, college sports and then to the pros where they start taking action, but this started from the top and headed down,” said Dale. “If the NBA is all of a sudden pulling the plug on something, then it must be pretty serious.”

“You want the safety and well-being of the entire population to be your first thought, so I think these precautions are put into place for a reason. There’s people in positions making these decisions so we don’t have to, which I think is a good idea. We’re just kind of along for the ride now and kind of seeing where this journey takes us.”

As of 1 p.m., Tuesday, the athletic director said that the WIAA had not reached out to provide any additional details on the spring season other than that athletes shouldn’t group up and should do any training or practice individually.

With so much uncertainty regarding spring sports, instead of trying to compile schedules at this time, Dale said he and the rest of the Central Wisconsin Conference athletic directors are playing the waiting game.

“There’s just a lot of question marks right now,” said Dale.

Track and field was the only spring sport that had begun practicing before the coronavirus started impacting the WIAA, beginning back on March 9.

With a week of practice in the books, coaches have had to devise new plans to keep their athletes in shape and ready to go should the season resume at some point.

“Although we as coaches are disappointed with this start to our season, we are staying in communication with our athletes and providing them with individualized workouts based on their interest in particular events of choice,” said Erin Cornelius, a first-year track head coach at Shawano. “We stress the importance of remaining independent, not forming group workouts, along with maintaining the nutrition and rest that their bodies need to fight off any impending sickness.”

Coaches in other spring sports echoed similar plans about their teams, encouraging individual work and to stay ready.

Softball teams were set to start practicing on Monday, with baseball and girls soccer originally scheduled to open their seasons this coming Monday. Boys tennis was set to start practicing on March 30.

If the original timeline for schools to resume had stayed on course, boys golf teams would have started their first practices on time (April 6).

Instead, all high school teams and athletes are playing the waiting game.

FYI

Interviews for this story were conducted before the news was released that schools were closed indefinitely.

Information current as of March 18, 2 p.m.