The chain lock at the tennis courts behind Seymour High School spoke louder than any words. It was a firm advertisement for “Keep out.”
The sun was bright Friday afternoon, and ordinarily, the purple-colored courts would be teeming with Owls players practicing for the season opener against Jeffersonville on April 7. Instead, they were empty.
Nearby, the baseball and softball fields were also lonely, closed indefinitely. The weather was springlike, but all of the sports teams for Seymour, Brownstown Central, Trinity Lutheran, Crothersville and Medora have excused absences.
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Local spring sports had staggered opening-day schedules in place beginning March 31, but per order of Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana schools are on lockdown due to the rapidly spreading COVID-19, or coronavirus, at least until May 1. No school, no extracurricular activities.
The virus has spread around the world like a wildfire fueled by dry timber, and circumstances have changed so quickly and so often that what is true one day in terms of planning and advice, and even one hour, may be drastically altered soon after.
“I feel poorly for our kids, especially for our seniors,” said Seymour’s fourth-year athletic director, Kirk Manns.
School was suspended and governors around the country, as well as federal government leaders, are either banning or recommending against gatherings of 10 or more people to help stall the virus’ proliferation.
Seniors have the most to lose if the rest of the 2019-20 school year remains abnormal. Since only a small percentage of athletes are likely to continue as college athletes, most will lose out on their final season of prep sports. But also, as Manns noted, other activities such as “proms and honor days. Who knows about graduation?”
Manns, who is working from home, is in regular contact with other athletic directors in the Hoosier Hills Conference and school administrators. The Indiana High School Athletic Association has advised schools of a plan that could be set in motion for sports participation if schools do reopen May 1.
There would be five days of practice before any games are played, and the schools could compete in a truncated season and perhaps advance to regularly scheduled state championship events. State track is scheduled for June 5 and 6. Boys state golf is June 16 and 17.
There would be time for some regular-season action, but it was unknown at the end of March whether the beginning of May is a realistic time frame to resume school and sports. Those involved can at least remain temporarily optimistic there will be a chance sports seasons and America will return to a semblance of normalcy sooner than months from now.
“It hasn’t totally been eliminated,” Brownstown Central Athletic Director Mark DeHart said. “Obviously, we’d have to come back to school.”
If the re-up date holds and the five-practice rule is in effect, there will be no competition until the second week of May, he said.
“It only gives you so much time for sports,” DeHart said.
As pandemic assessments have come and gone and the virus has shifted course around the world, there also is the option to extend the school year, he believes.
“That’s a possibility,” DeHart said.
Everything is a possibility, as the country has learned in recent weeks.
“Provided May 1 is when we get together again,” DeHart said of the chance of there being spring sports of any kind. “It’s so hard to predict. It’s hard for us to plan. We don’t know what’s going to happen two days from now. Our schools may be ready, and other schools aren’t ready.”
Although Medora theoretically offers students the opportunity to play baseball or compete in track, Athletic Director Brad McCammon said the school was not fielding teams in those sports this year due to lack of interest.
McCammon said he isn’t even sure when the school can schedule something much simpler — its winter awards sports banquet.
“Everything is kind of on hold,” he said.
The speed with which the number of COVID-19 Indiana cases expanded over the last week was eye-catching to McCammon.
“It is kind of scary the way the cases are growing,” he said.
Perhaps that will further diminish the likelihood of seniors getting to enjoy the final month or so of school or competing with their teams.
“I really feel sorry for those kids,” DeHart said.