COVID-19 threat halts prep sports
Friday, March 13th, 2020 is a date the high school athletes will always remember when Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a 30 day suspension of schools, school activities and facilities.
The governor ordered public schools shuttered until April 13 and barred all large public gatherings until the same date.
“The time for serious action is now,” Edwards said at a news conference “There is some period of time where we’re going to have a new normal.”
Eunice High principal Mitch Fontenot said he stopped athletic competition after a decision passed down from the St. Landry Parish superintendent Patrick Jenkins.
“It was coming down in bits and pieces,” Fontenot said. “It was changing every few minutes.
“When they first let us know that the parish was suspending all athletics, I had to call coaches who were already on their way to a track meet and a softball game,” he said. “They had to turn around and come back.”
Fontenot said it was tough to let the coaches and athletes know that the season has been halted.
“It is difficult for them, especially the seniors as all of the sudden they were told they can’t play – so they are thinking they could have played their last game.”
Fontenot said he is hoping that the spring sports can return.
“As much as things are constantly changing, it is hard to tell right now,” he said. “After a couple of weeks we may have a better idea of where this is heading.
“We want to see our kids be able to complete their spring sports.
“I hate to think the seniors have this thrust upon them so suddenly,” Fontenot said. “It is not their fault and they didn’t do anything to cause the end of their season.”
Fontenot said he agrees with the decision to halt athletic competition.
“You ask me something about education and I can answer that,” he said. “But I don’t know anything about viruses so I have to trust the people that do.”
Fontenot said if the ban is lifted, sports would resume as quickly as possible.
“I know if I was an athlete I would continue to do what I normally do,” he said. “I would work out and stay and shape which I’m sure they are doing.”
LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine issued an updated LHSAA memo on the coronavirus pandemic Monday as he stressed that member schools should follow the strict directives Bonine is leaving the door open for the LHSAA to conduct its remaining championships at later dates if the pandemic is brought under control.
“We will keep all processes in place for post season play, Bonine’s memo said. “If the spring championship season extends for any period of time, the LHSAA will be ready to conduct tournaments in their entirety.”
The earliest possible date for the resumption of competition is April 14, but this date could change based on the severity of COVID-19 across the state.
Closing schools is an effort to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the virus.
According to an interview in the Advocate, Bonine said they are considering all options.
“Schools are out until April 13, and Gov. Edwards said he might extend it another month. Even with that said, there are still no options off the table for our championship events.
“We would consider extending the year and holding events in June, but only if the pandemic situation improves to the point where events can be held safely.”
Bonine said June dates are tentatively set for possible non select baseball and softball tournaments. Select finals would be played at school sites.
Bonine reiterated that moving other events — including powerlifting, bowling, boys/girls tennis and golf — to later dates remains a possibility.
The fate on the LHSAA’s spring seasons will be a major topic when the organization’s executive committee meets April 7-8
For St. Edmund athletic director James Shiver, the cancellation of spring sports was a difficult thing to see happen.
“It was really difficult especially for the seniors,” Shiver said. “We were having a good spring with our teams.
“The powerlifting team had a chance to win two or three state championships, the tennis team was on a great run, the softball team was having a wild season at 11-1, the baseball team was starting to come around as all of our sports were doing well.”
The Diocese of Lafayettte sent a directive to the Catholic schools ordering all extracurricular activities associated be cancelled or postponed until further notice.
“Effective Monday, March 16, all athletic competitions and practice will come to a complete stop,” the letter said. “No coach or employees in our schools should plan or participate in any on- or off-campus workouts.
“This includes non-faculty (CECP) coaches assigned to any of our schools” the memo continued. “Any coach or employee found in violation of this directive could face disciplinary action.”
Shiver said they will have to wait and see what happens.
“We keep in touch with the athletes while they are away from campus,” Shiver said. “We don’t know how bad this virus is going to be – but we need to help support each other through this.”
Shiver said the hope is spring sports returns after the governor’s 30 day ban.
“I think the playoffs could be determined by power rankings and we could play again,” he said. “But if we can’t play for another eight weeks, that could change everything.
“I don’t know what the future holds but I know the kids sure hope we can come back and make a run in the playoffs.
“We want to do what we can for the seniors,” the coach said. “We haven’t given up on the possibility of returning to play this season.
Shiver agreed with the tough decision that was made to stop athletics.
“We want to see everything get back to normal as soon as possible,” he said. “But saving lives is always the right thing to do.
“The LHSAA and Diocese have both done a good job of putting the safety and health of the kids first.
“They had no other decision that could be made other than stop playing.”