The clock is ticking.
While the entire sports world comes to a halt during this time with the coronavirus outbreak, we have already seen some wonderful acts of kindness.
Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler announced Thursday that he was going to make sure employees of State Farm Arena — many of whom are hourly workers depending on the NBA season — are paid during the league’s suspension.
Arthur Blank has pledged the same for workers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, who are on the job for Atlanta United and Falcons games.
The NCAA, in a surprisingly fast move, has already announced plans to allow athletes in spring sports to receive what is called “eligibility relief,” which is a fancy way of saying the organization is going to give the student-athletes an extra year of eligibility. It has also been reported that the NCAA may look into providing athletes in winter sports additional eligibility because their seasons were cut short.
Professional and college sports are finding ways to take care of their people. But what about high school?
Like I said, the clock is ticking, especially for those seniors playing spring sports who are set to graduate in two months.
Currently all the high schools in Georgia are closed for at least the next two weeks. Students will continue schooling, but in an online fashion. At the end of the month, the situation will be re-evaluated. In a perfect situation, everyone heads back to school, and varsity sports return to the field, course, court or track, albeit with an adjusted schedule. But if it doesn’t, well, that is something many of the high school coaches are already trying to figure out, and it has nothing to do with playoffs or trying to win a state championship.
“I’ve got a group of seniors who have done everything we have ever asked of them,” one coach said. “They have put a lot of work into this program. I want them to be able to walk across the field with their parents and be recognized for it. Having a proper senior night. That’s one of my biggest concerns, because it gives them a sense of closure.”
For someone like me, who is 51 years old and doesn’t have children, it may sound like an overreaction. The players are 17 and 18 years old, and they have their whole lives in front of them. Others may say if the coaches want to recognize the players, have a ceremony in the gym. They can all be recognized in front of the whole school, but that’s not the point.
Those kids have spent nearly a quarter of their lives wearing the uniform of their high school team. Win or lose, good day or bad, they have represented their school with pride. Having the last half of their last season ripped out from under them would be something they would remember the rest of their lives. Not experiencing a proper sendoff in their own element would only make the situation worse.
“You hope people understand the ramifications,” that coach said. “It goes beyond the playoffs.”
The NBA has announced it will be shut down for at least 30 days, and Major League Baseball has already pushed opening day back until at least May 1.
When this health crisis passes, in theory, the leagues can resume and/or start whenever they want.
Many people will welcome the extra year of eligibility to allow them to keep playing as they finish college.
The Cobb County and Marietta school districts, the GHSA, GISA and the other high school associations have all taken the proper steps in making sure everyone is safe.
Hopefully that will be enough to afford our high school seniors who play baseball, soccer, lacrosse or any other spring sport another chance to put on their uniform and compete for their school.
The clock is ticking, and time seems to go by fast.