The world of sports changed suddenly on March 11 when NBA star Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus prior to a game forcing the NBA to suspend the season. The very next day, teammate Donovan Mitchell would also test positive. In the following days, other leagues would follow suit. The NCAA announced that it would limit attendance at the March Madness tournament and soon after would cancel the tournament all together. Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, National Hockey League, the Summer Olympics and the suspension of spring training and the NFL combine; every sport in the world would be affected.
Sports figures who were considered larger than life all of a sudden are now seen as being as vulnerable as the rest of us. New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Peyton, Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant, Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Kozo Tashima, Japan FA president and vice chairman of Japan's Olympic Committee, Chris Kielsmeier, Cleveland State women's basketball coach and a large number of international soccer players are just a potentially small percentage of sports figures in the world who have tested positive to COVID-19. As of now the NBA has confirmed 11 players have tested positive.
In Texas, all high school and middle school athletics and competitions have also been suspended by the University Interscholastic League (UIL) until May 6 but with this continued uncertainty, that date could easily change as seen in in recent days as the deadline has been pushed from March 29 to April 4 and now the new deadline.
To their credit, the UIL has been doing an amazing job at keeping everyone informed and prioritizing the health and safety of all students, coaches, faculty and staff during these times of uncertainty. Kudos to Dr. Charles Breithaupt and all the UIL staff.
The unfortunate thing is that through all this, our student athletes who have worked all of their lives to compete in the sports that they love are unable to do so. The varsity boys basketball semifinals and finals were being played as all this was happening and during all this, the games went from playing in front of a packed crowd to a limited crowd the next day to an all out cancellation on the final day of play. The power lifting state finals were scheduled for this weekend and many area schools were set to send their student athletes to Waco to compete. In baseball and softball, the excitement for the beginning of district play was set to happen as was the start of spring football practice.
The hardest part in all of this is knowing that senior athletes who are set to play their final season of high school ball in preparation to head to the college of their choice are not being able to compete in the sports they love. The chance to play in front of college scouts has been, as of now, been put up in the air until further notice. These student athletes are only eligible seniors once in their life. This is not like college, where they can qualify for another year of eligibility. This is their moment and unfortunate circumstances beyond any of their control, this moment has been altered.
It’s uncertain when we will be able to resume high school competition but most of the sports world is trying to remain optimistic about being able to get back on the field or court and being able to perform in front of those who appreciate the craft of competitive sports. Until then, as a community, we owe it to these young athletes to remain supportive and encouraging and continue to remind them that things will get better. There will be a day, soon, when our young athletes will be able to get back to work and do what they have been working so hard for their whole lives and when that happens, we, as a community, need to fill those stands and cheer them on because that’s what sports fans do.