High school softball and baseball seasons were held in Iowa this summer, and nothing apocalyptic happened.
About a dozen teams in both sports ended their seasons prematurely because of COVID-19. Over 96 percent of all teams finished their seasons, or will at this week’s state tournaments. Whether that means anything for the rest of American sports or America, who knows? But we hoped for a little victory when Iowa went ahead and chose to hold its summer prep sports, and it feels like one to many involved.
“I felt like it went really well,” said Linn-Mar Athletics Director David Brown. “Initially, there was a lot of concern over how we were going to do it. Was it going to be an environment that wouldn’t cause for the spread of COVID-19?
“The parameters and protocols that we came up with as a (Mississippi Valley) conference and also locally at Linn-Mar, they turned out pretty well.”
At Kennedy High, activities director Aaron Stecker said “I don’t know if it’s been as difficult as maybe I built it up to be. It’s been a testament to our coaches, our kids and our parents.
“They’ve just been really cooperative and understanding, even if they haven’t agreed with everything we’ve asked them to do. They’ve worked with us, and I think most ADs would tell you the same thing. There have been hiccups along the way, but our folks have worked well with us. The other option was we don’t play.”
A significant percentage of adults haven’t embraced social distancing and masking in public, so to expect high school kids to take it upon themselves wasn’t overly realistic.
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“I often say they’re very good at being 16- to 18-year-olds,” Stecker said. “They needed coaxing and some constant reminding that ‘Hey, this is what we have to do.’ You’ve got to wear your masks in, you’ve got to wear your masks out. You’ve got to space yourself out as much as you can when you have an opportunity in drills.
“It’s not their nature to socially distance. So it takes some reminders.”
However, Stecker added, “There’s no evidence there was a Player A-to-Player B transmission because of close contact.
“I think another reinforcement booster we got was when (Dubuque) Wahlert in our conference went down in baseball for two weeks, and Cedar Falls. Our players started seeing teams that were on their schedule start to have issues, and I think that was a quick reinforcement of why we’re telling them to do those (preventive) things.”
The desire of the players and their parents to have a sports season opened many minds to new team rules.
“Everybody was in the position that we really wanted to play sports and wanted to give it a try,” Brown said. “So there was a lot of frontloading of information to people, this is how it’s going to look.
“I think one of our jobs as athletic directors when we do propose our plan for how we’re going to try to keep kids safe is just giving everybody all the information. We had Zoom meetings with families and just told them exactly what we were going to do and the expectation these things will be done for the kids to play. People jumped on at Linn-Mar really well.
“We didn’t have any major concerns or dilemmas with kids not wanting to follow protocols or families kind of fighting back with what we were doing. Everybody was great.”
Now comes the new school year. Football. Volleyball. And kids going to school together. It may be a totally different ballgame than this summer, and football is especially a totally different ballgame. So is the students being together in classrooms. But it’s all a go in Iowa as of now.
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“We’re moving forward for planning on playing fall sports and starting practice on August 10,” Stecker said. “Guidelines are supposed to come out in the next week to help us start planning how you run football practice, how you run volleyball practice.
“The way you’ve run practice and events before isn’t going to work for a while. So how do we create as positive and close-to-normal an experience as we can for kids and coaches and fans, but also recognize our responsibility to not create an environment where we’re just a cesspool and virus gets passed from person to person and we act like we don’t care?”
Weightlifting sessions have been held at Linn-Mar the last few weeks. So have football camps, and open gym for volleyball and basketball.
“I think kids are just excited to be back out together with their friends doing stuff,” said Brown. “In the weight room at Linn-Mar we have them wear masks. When we first said that’s how it was going to be I thought there would be frustration and it would be hard to get the kids to do that.
“But they’ve been really cooperative and understand that we’re in kind of a weird time here and there are going to be different rules.”
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