For many high school athletes, the excitement of competition was about to peak. The State Semifinals and finals in Basketball were happening. Local and area schools were preparing for the state power lifting round in Waco and district play for baseball and softball were scheduled to start this week. For many senior athletes, this was going to be there moment; that is until the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic hit our nation.
On March 12, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) announced the suspension of the state basketball tournament and all academic state events including debate and drama. The following day, the UIL suspended all athletic activities until March 29.
"We are urging our member schools and their communities to stay vigilant and take every possible precaution to stay safe and healthy,"UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt said in a statement released by the UIL. "We understand there is a lot of uncertainty during this unprecedented time. Please know UIL leasdership is working diligently to adjust to this rapidly evolving situation and will share updates as soon as possible."
The suspension took effect on March 16, allowing baseball and softball teams to finish tournament play over the weekend. Now the reality and uncertainty of when teams will be able to compete again and if they will be allowed to practice comes into question.
According to the UIL, it would be at the discretion of each local school district whether or not to hold rehearsals and practices.
"We really don’t know right now," Banquete Bulldogs Head Coach Rusty Miller said. "We have meetings with our superintendent as far as practice, possibility of practice time and what he’s going to allow us to do."
"I know that London high school has told them they can’t practice for the until next week," Miller said.
Coach Miller is pretty optimistic that his team will be able to hold some sort of practice but as of this writing, he has yet to hear anything back. He says that in Banquete, there is a lot of things to consider as far as what the district can and can not do and what would be feasible for everyone involved.
"We have a junior high program, a JV program and of course varsity so it would not surprise me if most of the districts in the area get rid of junior high and JV for the rest of the year and make it where it;s just focused on our varsity kids," Miller said. "It’s easier to just play one game a night as opposed to playing two; condensing the schedule down to just varsity to where teams are focused just on trying to get the important stuff done than trying to play three or four games."
Ultimately, whatever the district decides, the UIL can change everything depending on the severity of the COVID-19 situation as time passes.
"We can say we’re going to play junior high and JV and they (UIL) come back and say, ’No, this is what’s going to happen,’ and we gotta follow it," Miller said. "We’ll see. Hopefully there are no cancellations of varsity because at the college level, they can grant you another year of eligibility. At the high school level, they can’t do that."
In Alice, according to Coach Nick Alvarado, the Coyotes Baseball teams will be allowed to utilize 13 hours of practice this week. Alvarado plans to incorporate both sub-varsity and varsity players during those practice times allowed.
Coach Alvarado had some big plans for all varsity home games this season but with all that has happened, those plans have had to be put on hold.
"Our district opener at home we were going to play Gregory-Portland and we were going to honor veterans and first responders," Alvarado said. "Each subsequent home game were going to be sponsored by various community businesses. No it’s having to be rescheduled."
In addition to trying to utilize those allotted 13 hours, Coach Alvarado is going to try to coordinate an in-house scrimmage.
"I’m going to try and coordinate with the resources we have available at this time and have an orange and white game where we do like a varsity/sub-varsity mix combination and maybe bar-b-que for the boys, put an announcer and just try to keep as much of that excitement about the season."
This week, all district coaches will meet in Alice and put together some creative scheduling in hopes that they can play all of their district games. According to Alvarado, the UIL has listed some game restrictions that allow some flexibility to be able to come of with a scheduling plan. After that, the District Executive Committee will meet on March 26 to discuss and hopefully approve their proposal.
Until then, unless the UIL says different, Alvarado plans on continuing practice.
"We’re going to try to maintain some type of normalcy," Alvarado said. "I think after today, we’re going to see where these kid’s heads are at and if we feel that it’s going to be beneficial and it’s not going to put their safety and health at risk, then we’re going to continue to work."
UPDATE: Since this article was written, the UIL sent out a press release this afternoon suspending all practices and rehearsals until March 29 effective immediately.
For information on rescheduling for athletics, go to the following link https://www.uiltexas.org/athletics/covid-19-information