Musings from the sports desk: How to manage in a strange time without sports

Sports Editor

By now, many of us have come to terms with a world devoid of sports. But, that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
These last few weeks have been beyond surreal. High schools sports were suspended statewide on March 16 due to concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic with optimistic hopes of returning April 13, sending a shockwave through Iowa, especially among youth athletes and sports editors.

It’s an unusual time, late March is usually when local teams are preparing for the spring season, not waiting at home, away from their teammates, begging for good news. Things have been a little weird, to say the least.
It’s odd living in a county with no available live sports, nothing on the professional or college levels, either. The threat and spread of Coronavirus has forced the cancellation of both men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments as well as all collegiate championship events while the NBA season has been suspended for at least 30 days, in addition to suspensions of the NHL, MLB, NASCAR and the PGA Tour.
What a week it was – scratch that – what a few hours we witnessed March 10-12. Easily the strangest sports moment I’ve ever experienced. Watching it occur in real time was even more baffling. The dominoes fell with remarkable quickness. It was captivating and heartbreaking as each hour passed, with each scroll the news became more and more terrifying.

It’s a unique challenge, Greene County activities director Todd Gordon said, trying to keep his athletes in tip-top shape from afar. He’s been in close talks with the school’s various coaches in track, golf and soccer, but its rather difficult when teams aren’t allowed to practice.
“We are living through history, we are living through an unprecedented time that we haven’t seen before in our lifetime,” Gordon said. “All you can tell them is, we can still work to be better. It’s just going to take some outside the box thinking. (They need to) take some time to do some things they’ve never done before and find ways to keep their minds sharp. Keep growing and continue to have conversations.”
Gordon was completely on board when the state decided to put sports on hold last week, even if it threw a giant wrench in preparations.

“(I) absolutely (believe this is the right thing to do),” Gordon said. “I’ll admit, I was in the camp of everyone comparing it to the flu, but there’s more to it. Like they’ve said, if we were overly cautious and it works, then good for us.”

The facts, Gordon said, ultimately helped him move in favor of the state. It’s better to urge on the side of caution than risk not only infecting athletes, but also the intense potential for grandparents and parents in the stands to contract the disease as well.

“When you see the stats and start seeing how it spreads, even though our school population isn’t that big, if we went around and infected the grandparents and people like that, that’s not good,” Gordon said. “We’ve got to do as much as we can to stay away from (the COVID-19 virus) and get a handle on it.”
Each athletic department’s role now, across the state, along with the various spring coaches and the strength and conditioning programs, is to keep their athletes sharp despite not being able to even practice, Gordon said.  
“We will try to find ways to keep our kids mentally sharp, keep them engaged,” Gordon said.
How that looks exactly is still a work in progress. Unfortunately, coaches will have to trust their athletes and push them to work out on their own.

In that same vein, Gordon is challenging Greene County athletes to take advantage of this down time, using it as an opportunity to serve their community. With a significant portion of the area’s population among the older generation, Gordon wants his athletes to offer their services.
“Go run and get groceries for someone,” he said. “How can you make your neighborhood better and community better and make things as smooth as they can be?”

When the dust finally settles, what will things look like once the suspension is lifted? The CDC recommended all U.S. citizens avoid gatherings of 50 or more people for at least eight weeks, so that’s a rough timeline of mid-May. The NBA, NHL and MLB may not start up again until the mid-summer. High school sports would be looking at a May 13 or so restart date as well, which greatly impacts the track and golf season while it slices the soccer season in half. The baseball and softball seasons wouldn’t be dealt too big of a blow, but they’d be pretty far behind in training. Ultimately, if high school athletes want to stay on top of their game, Gordon said its up to each individual.

“We still control our attitude and effort, those two things. You can’t control a lot of other stuff,” Gordon said. “Control the controllable. It’s all about perspective now. A lot of that comes down to the choice they make and how to approach it.”

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