By: Kyle Deeken
Missouri MileSplit Contributor
We are truly entering uncharted territory.
This weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that all gatherings of 50 people or more be postponed or canceled for the next 8 weeks. As a result, city and county health departments across the state reacted by recommending that schools close for an extended period of time, with many choosing to close at least until April 3rd, and undergo significant disinfectant procedures.
These closures come after colleges across the state made decisions to move classes to a completely online format, forcing the hands of professors and students in regards to how their classes will move forward.
The far-reaching effects of the pandemic have interrupted athletic seasons from professional leagues to high school state associations and everywhere in between. The NCAA canceled the Indoor Track and Field Championships at all three levels and then proceeded to cancel the entire spring sport season.
Luckily for those athletes, they will be offered an extra year of eligibility.
State associations have had to fall in line with the school closures across their states. State associations and directors of several of the nation's premier track and field meets have been postponing or canceling their events in light of recent developments with COVID-19. As a result, spring sports seasons across the country have been put in limbo. Athletes all over have been thrown into a kind of uncertainty that is heightening anxiety that their season will occur.
For those who spent the past four months or more preparing in their own way for a track season in which they hoped to achieve or surpass their dreams, the window is slowly closing. And for many, that may be devastating.
Today, MSHSAA announced they will not be canceling spring sports at this time, but have mandated that if a school is closed due to Coronavirus concerns, then they should not be allowing official athletic practices to occur.
According to the MSHSAA release: "...if the school is still in session, then it is a local school decision on the practices and games. ...if the state authorities shut down all schools statewide, we will mirror the shutdown for all practices and contests."
"I'm just hoping there's a season so I can run for my last year," a senior athlete close to the author remarked.
"I want to win a medal at state. ...It would be a crappy way to end my track career."
For the coaches who spent those arduous winter months writing and monitoring abridged weeks of workouts, preparing their athletes for greatness, and patiently watching the calendar turn to March, this is a similarly devastating moment.
So what can we do in this time of such uncertainty and instability? How can we as teammates, coaches, parents, administrators, or fans support each other?
It is important now more than ever to recognize that everyone is fighting battles behind the scenes that we may never see. Those with whom our relationships end after the final school bell or after practice has ended are not only fighting the disappointment that has come with the thought of losing out on their season, but they may also be struggling with the notion that their entire livelihood may be in trouble. Not only are schools and arenas closing, but the calls for "social distancing" are affecting the ability for many businesses to remain open or are forcing bosses and managers to keep on only salaried and strictly necessary workers. So our student-athletes' parents may be impacted by this ripple effect, thus adding to a pile of anxiety that continues to grow by the second.
So check in with those around you. Coaches: understand that your job is not only to provide athletic consultation, but to also provide emotional support as needed. Student-athletes: understand that, when you sign up for a sport like track and field, you take on a great deal of teammates from different backgrounds and different levels of privilege. Check in with your teammates. Support each other with empathy and unconditional positive regard. In order to get through these times, it is important to not only monitor our physical health, but also our mental health. A difficult situation could be much more difficult if we fail to have each other backs.
Most importantly, take heed of the recommendations from trusted health professionals. Understand that this virus can take up to 2 weeks to manifest symptoms and thus, though you may feel perfectly healthy right now, you could be carrying the virus and, if you were to come into contact with someone with a weak or compromised immune system, you could be inadvertently passing the virus on to them, which could have dire consequences.
While this situation has thrown a massive wrench in the plans of so many of you around the state, understand that these decisions would not have been made unless those who most know about the severity of the situation thought it was absolutely necessary.
And stay hopeful and motivated. The season isn't lost yet.
*Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, or concerns.