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Athletic Directors scramble to make plans amidst Coronavirus pandemic shutdown

 

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

 

Thursday, March 12 will be a day in the world of sports that no one will ever forget. It was the day in which high school, collegiate and professional sporting events on all levels were beginning to get postponed or cancelled.

Hour by hour on that day, and into the next few days, the hardest decisions were being made, but decisions that had to be made for the health and safety of everyone. In this immediate area, high school principals and athletic directors were scrambling around to come up with plans, both for the present and future, as to how they should cancel or postpone the remainder of the spring athletic season.

“Once [the NCAA conference basketball tournaments were] being cancelled and the NBA was calling off games, I knew we would react someway,” said Artesia High co-athletic director Joe Veach. “I wasn’t quite sure how. I didn’t know if we would close the events or if we would do something to alter the events. But I knew we would react someway. Once I saw March Madness cancelled, that was kind of the big one where I went, ‘oh my gosh, they’re cancelling the basketball tournaments’.”

Veach added that once it was around that time, the ABC Unified School District had said events would still go on, but with no spectators. Later on, as the news of the pandemic was growing worse, the decision was made to hold off on athletics until further notice.

“The 605 League was already in close communication about how we might be handling the COVID-19 issues, which were quickly arising,” said Cerritos High co-athletic director Robert Adams. “Much more attention was being paid to how strongly affected areas, such as Washington state, were beginning to set up social distancing restrictions. Of course, we were all working with our districts to develop policies acceptable to them, and all of them were a little bit different.”

“I read a lot and watch the news programs,” said Whitney High athletic director Jeff Day. “I figured the writing was on the wall for us. As a fan and [Los Angeles] Angels and [Los Angeles] Rams season ticket holder and everything UCLA, I was bummed as sports is a huge part of my life. [Two weeks ago], our monthly administration league meetings realized this is real and we are going to have to curtail our spring programs. At the time, we didn’t know if that meant delay, postpone or cancel.”

Linda Parra, co-athletic director at John Glenn High, said she was amazed at how quickly everything has transpired and added that on the day of the 605 League Principals/Athletic Directors meeting, which was on Mar. 12, Glenn principal Francisco Ramirez received a phone call from the Norwalk/La Mirada Unified School District in which it had already made the decision to cancel all athletic contests until Apr. 19. Soon after that, other schools and school districts followed suit.

In the next 24-48 hours, each school was making contingency plans for the rest of the spring season, although it wasn’t that easy as something new was, and has been surfacing hour by hour for the past two weeks.

Veach said his initial thought was not to shut down the spring sports as they are not as highly attended whereas football and basketball are. But what was making matters somewhat tricky was the fact that the other school districts for the other members of the 605 League had different opinions, which would have created some intricate planning for the rest of the season. He added that Oxford Academy athletic director David Clifton emailed the rest of the league stating that they were shutting down its events through the end of April, which would have been the end of the spring season as playoffs were scheduled to begin in May.

Veach had proposed to have just one round of league competition once everyone returned from spring break. But that wouldn’t have worked in sports such as track and field and swimming in which teams face other league opponents once.

“It was never set in stone; it was something we floated that I came up with,” Veach said. “Everybody seemed [like] we could do it. [But] with Glenn cancelling through spring break, I didn’t feel like they should have to forfeit. At this point, everyone was still [considering] playing.”

“I informed our coaches that we would be cancelling all events until April.19,” Parra said. “We then got the news that we were restricted from practicing for two weeks. That has since changed, and we are restricted from practicing until after spring break. From there, we will be notified on how the district will proceed.”

Since then, Cerritos principal Patrick Walker informed Glenn, Oxford Academy and Pioneer High that the ABCUSD had informed all its schools to cancel all athletics for the remainder of the school year. Veach also confirmed that directive by the district. Parra hasn’t received such word from the NLMUSD yet, but anticipates it will be the same direction Glenn will follow.

“During a 605 League meeting on Thursday, postponements and cancellations were discussed on a sport by sport basis,” Adams said. “By the time the meeting ended, the incredible fluidity of the situation was already making any plans difficult and the meeting adjourned with plans still being communicated as individual schools received district directives.”

With the spring season pretty much a wash for most, or all schools, athletic administrators have been working on, or trying to put together some type of contingency plans for the summer and fall seasons. Veach said that he has been telling his coaches he doesn’t have the answers to any of their questions because every day something changes and that everyone just has to play it by ear.

“Again, with the extreme fluidity of the situation, there are no firm plans on how, and more importantly, when athletics at Cerritos, or the 605 League commence,” Adams said. “Our focus has switched to the immediate concerns of providing academic instruction to our students while the school closures remain in effect. As soon as some kind of timetable for that situation develops, I am certain we will meet and discuss a reasonable return to athletic activity in a manner reflective of the position in the calendar we are in at the time, as well as any considerations that may need to be made reflective of necessary social restrictions.”

Parra said her goal is to hit the ground running and get all its athletes back on their playing fields/courts once she gets clearance and added that the students miss their practices, teams and coaches. She also said it will be interesting to see how the California Interscholastic Federation responds in regards to the summer dead period and wonders is schools will still be asked to enforce the dead period now that all schools are essentially on a dead period at this time.

“I am keeping my fingers crossed we will be given access to practice as much as we want this summer due to the crazy circumstances we are currently in,” she added.

“I am hoping to have my clearance steps in place for next year, but summer is on hold until I gather more information,” Day said. “It’s not vital or too important in the grand scheme of things. Fall will encompass our school schedule and what guidelines CIF, our district and my administration team provide me with. I’ll be in close contact with all student athletes and coaches in a few days (or more a week).”

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