By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – The Indiana High School Athletic Association, following the announcement of the closure of all Indiana schools through the end of the 2019-20 school year, cancelled all spring sports on Thursday afternoon.
The unprecedented move, as the nation struggles with the coronavirus epidemic, impacted boys golf, girls tennis, boys and girls track, baseball, softball and unified track.
When Indiana governor Eric Holcomb, who had previously closed schools through May 1, extended the shutdown, the IHSAA had no choice but to follow suit as its member schools act as the hosts for the state tournament series in all sports.
“The Indiana High School Athletic Association staunchly supports our Governor, our State Commissioner of Health and our State Superintendent of Public Instruction in their herculean efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the organization said in press statement.
For Bedford North Lawrence athletic director Jeff Callahan, who doubles as the baseball coach, the announcement of the cancellations – while viewed as inevitable because of recent events and projections – still marked a sad day.
“It sure is,” Callahan said. “It’s sad for a lot of kids and coaches who have worked hard to prepare for their seasons, especially for the seniors.
”There’s a lot more facing our community, our state, our nation and our world right now. Sports are important but they’re a small part of life. You learn a lot of lessons from them.”
When the state leadership first issued the May 1 date as the temporary school shutdown, the IHSAA (which cancelled the conclusion of the boys basketball state tournament) announced it would work to continue to conduct the state tournaments for spring sports. Callahan and the coaches prepared for a truncated schedule even while practice sessions were cancelled.
“We were working to maximize the schedules with the dates we had available,” Callahan said. “Now we have to go back to work and make sure we’re ready for the fall. But there are a lot of seniors who unfortunately won’t be a part of it. Which is sad.”
The shock was felt across the board.
“It doesn’t matter how good or bad you expect your team to be,” said BNL boys golf coach Mike Wright, who had a senior son on the roster. “It’s about building relationships, teaching what life lessons you can. Now there’s no closure.
“We kind of saw it coming, even when the IHSAA made its announcement last month, we knew it was a slim hope. We will have a team picture and a senior night. We just don’t know when.”
”I understand it, I get it, the kids get it,” BNL softball coach Brad Gilbert said. “But it doesn’t make it any easier. Those seniors don’t get a chance to step on the field again. It makes me more sad than words can describe.”
Fall sports are scheduled to begin practice sessions in late July (for girls golf) and early August (for football, cross country, boys tennis and soccer).
The summer workouts for all sports are now in jeopardy as school facilities will be closed.