A decision deemed a formality following Gov. Laura Kelly’s decision to close all K-12 schools through the rest of the academic year was officially delivered by the Kansas State High School Activities Association — all spring sports are canceled in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The KSHSAA released a statement on Thursday, one day after Kelly announced schools were closed.
The KSHSAA is committed to the safety of our student-participants and the health of our school communities,” the statement read. “Accordingly, in response to Governor Kelly’s Executive Order regarding the closure and cessation of in-person instruction in all Kansas schools through May 29, 2020, the KSHSAA is cancelling all spring championships, competitions, and festivals for the remainder of this school year. The KSHSAA recognizes the value of school activities for all students and school communities, but the current situation does not permit the opportunity for school activities to take place in a manner that is consistent with the very reason school activities exist.”
The writing was on the walls this week as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines recommending against gatherings of 10 or more people.
“As a commitment to the health of Kansas students and communities, the best decision and only reasonable response is to cancel the regular season and post-season spring activity season. We all have an important responsibility to minimize community transmission as we embrace suggested precautions regarding COVID-19,” the KSHSAA’s statement said.
The association had previously ruled on Sunday that it was suspending all sports from March 16-22 as it evaluated the future of spring sports.
“When they released the information that we couldn’t have more than 10 people together at one time, we realized we probably weren’t going to have spring sports,” said Labette County High School Athletic Director Sean Price.
“I’m just heartbroken for our kids. Especially the seniors,” Parsons High School Athletic Director Rob Barcus added. “It’s just the unknown. We met the other day and the state came out with something different. Our coaches were worried about getting kids together without knowing if they’ll be able to play.”
Thursday’s decision to cancel sports officially ends the high school athletic careers of senior student-athletes around the state.
“This is tough,” Price said. “We’ve got a golfers, softball players, baseball players and track kids whose careers are over. This pandemic is really unfortunate. I just really feel sorry for the seniors are losing their last seasons. You never expect this. I thought we’d be out two weeks and we’d re-evaluate. But I understand why this is happening.”
The emotional and psychological impact of the loss of sports for the rest of the season is one coaches, administrators and school districts will have to reckon with.
“When our kids return to whatever form of school we have, I’m sure our coaches will be communicating with their kids,” Price said. “A lot of kids are hurting right now. Not just in Labette County. There’s definitely some mending to do with emotions.”
The KSHSAA is also recommending against non-school participation in athletics and other activities by students.
“The KSHSAA strongly discourages non-school activity participation at this time in an effort to mitigate the community transmission of the coronavirus. All CDC, KDHE and KSDE recommendations for preventing disease transmission should be followed at this time for any non-school activity in which a student participates,” the KSHSAA statement said.
With the 2019-20 year in athletic competitions officially at its end, school districts, administrators and coaches will now shift their focus to summer programs in the coming weeks and months. Barcus and Price both admitted that while summer weights and fall sports may serve as the green light to resume athletics, the nature of the pandemic prevents much forethought.
“My hope is that we get out of the danger we’re in right now,” Price said. “We don’t want people getting sick and losing people. So who knows when we’ll be able to open everything back up. I haven’t given football or summer weights much of a thought. We’re just trying to make sure kids are safe.”
“We’ll be waiting on the state,” Barcus added. “Our next focus is summer activities and fall sports. We’ll worry about how many kids we can have in the weight room. If the virus is still around, will they let us have anything in the summer. Without knowing, we just try not to worry about it all the time.”