Thomas Ranson: Time’s running out for high school sports
With the COVID-19 outbreak across the globe, prompting more states to order residents to stay home, the landscape of high school sports is grim. Thousands of high school seniors, still holding onto whatever hope may be available, may have played the final game of their career without knowing it. Fortunately for the Silver State, teams were given an opportunity to finish the week after the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) announced it would suspend sports indefinitely on March 16. Fallon’s baseball and softball teams completed a doubleheader against South Tahoe on March 13 – while the announcement was sent to the schools and media – and the track team competed in the Yerington Relays the next day. The boys golf team participated in an ice-breaker tournament in Hawthorne. For Oasis Academy, the softball team was in Las Vegas during the announcement, while the boys golf team had yet to step onto the course for its first tournament. The lacrosse teams were able to get in a couple games. But the reality of the pandemic – whether you’ve now come to acceptance or are still in denial – is it is changing the way we live right before our eyes. And the world will never be the same once the World Health Organization (WHO) announces the pandemic is officially over. While this health crisis takes the center stage with many doing their part to combat the virus, the impact on sports is unfathomable. Imagine being one of the thousands of seniors who were informed that they may not get to step back onto the field only a couple weeks into their final season. How do you tell the high school senior class that sports are done, classes are all online and you may not get to walk across the stage? Fallon varsity baseball coach Lester de Braga found out about the NIAA news during the first game of his team’s doubleheader and waited, intentionally, until after the second game to tell his team that the season may be over. It’s one of the toughest positions coaches were forced into this month, informing your senior class, some who were with you since the very beginning, that the gate to the field will be locked and may not open again until next school year.There’s no easy way. You can provide hope that fades with each passing hour or jump to conclusions. There’s no amount of positive spin you can put on this dreadful pandemic – the worst of its kind in more than a century. Hope, though, can prolong the inevitable until it’s time to face that realization. No one knows when this nightmare will cease. It could be 14 or 30 days. It could be months. It could be years. The world is in uncharted territory, racing to prevent the spreading, find a vaccine or cure, and help offset the major blow to the economy that has experts bringing up a possible depression – not recession. But while the world still copes and tries to figure out how to battle this invisible enemy, temporarily pausing our everyday functions, here are some potential outcomes to expect with high school spring sports, ranging from most probable to unlikely.
Season is terminatedIt’s anyone’s guess when the number of cases will subside but it’s ultimately up to Gov. Steve Sisolak to make the decision. His order earlier this month to shut down the schools also means no sports or extracurricular activities. If the shutdown is extended, again, so will the sports season. Playoffs begin in the second week of May and school finals follow the next week with several schools entering commencement by the end of the month. It is possible that the school year could be extended, which would also allow the sports season to follow. Again, it depends the government, both state and federal, and if either says the school year is called off or classes can resume, but only virtually, then all extracurricular activities will be permanently cancelled.
Only a state tournament If the suspension lasts through April and early part of May, then that leaves only the state tournament. Leagues would have to do a quick weekend of pool play in order to determine top seeds to advance to the state tournament. Or they could revert to last year’s standings – highly unlikely – to figure out seeding. This could make the tournament even more exciting, mirroring the unpredictable nature of March Madness.
Only a regional tournament Clark County, so far, has been the hardest hit from COVID-19, which prompted its school district to suspend sports before the NIAA got involved. If Northern Nevada continues to stay in better shape than its counterpart, it’s possible that sports would resume for the region. But without Southern Nevada, there’s no competing for a state championship – only league and regional titles.
Abbreviated season with playoffsThe best-case scenario is also most unlikely to happen. April 16 is the final day of the order to close schools (online only) but that date is subject to change, like it did recently when it was bumped an extra 10 days from the original date. Even if the order was lifted, it would give schools about three weeks of regular-season competition before jumping into the postseason. Another extension of the school order would cut into the regular season even more.
The remainder of the sports season doesn’t look promising and it seems that with new cases popping up every day, it becomes more believable that the season will go unfinished, leaving many thinking of what could have happened.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.