Texas’ high school students are not only benched from school, but competing, rehearsing and working out.
On Friday, the University Interscholastic League initially suspended games until March 29 and practices were set on hold until Monday, March 23 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Then on Monday, the league announced that practices before or after school were off limits until that date also.
“To support the health and safety of our students and communities, the University Interscholastic League (UIL) is suspending all UIL sanctioned contests, rehearsals, practices and workouts due to the outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Texas,” the league said on its website. “Effective March 16, all UIL interscholastic activities are suspended through March 29.”
The previous announcement on Friday afternoon left it up to districts to decide if they would allow practices after schools returned from the extra week of Spring Break next week.
“We spoke with the UIL in person today to make sure we were complying with all guidelines,” Seguin athletic director Travis Bush said on Monday. “The biggest reason they chose to do that was to keep things equivalent across the board with schools that are out and schools that are still in session. We can’t hold any type of organized practices until the 29th — and that date may change. This is new territory for everybody and it’s going to be evaluated daily and adjustments will be made if they see fit.”
Bush said that if school does return next week, practices would be limited to the athletic periods during the school day. Seguin ISD announced late Tuesday that students would not be returning to the campus until April 6.
“There’s still schools in session right now across the state and they can’t do any after school or before school practices,” Bush said. “So that kind of keeps things equivalent.”
In the conversation with the UIL, Bush said he was told there are plans to continue the spring seasons once school gets back in session.
“The UIL is working on a plan to finish every season, even if it goes into June or July,” he said. “There going to find a way to make sure, especially for the senior athletes, that they get a chance to finish their season and get a chance to win championships. But, that could change.”
Putting school and extracurricular activities on hold is unheard of, Bush said.
“This is new for everyone, the nation and the state. That’s their goal, but whether it happens will be determined as we go through this ordeal.”
Bush said that the athletes and coaches will have to adapt to the situation in the best way possible.
“It’s out of our control,” he said. “You learn as an athlete and a coach to not focus on what you can’t control — but what you can control.
“That’s doing the right thing as directed by the nation to do what we’re supposed to do to stay as healthy as possible as a person and a student athlete.”
But trying to figure out a way to complete the season is also a priority.
“For the district we’ve got to put a plan together for if and when we do come back,” Bush said. “How we’re going to make up these games is what the district athletic directors have to work on over the next couple of weeks — we have to have a plan together. If it gets pushed back again we’ll get directed from the UIL.”
Athletic director Rod Blount returned from vacation this week, coming back to the suspension, and has talked with other coaches in his district.
“Everybody I’ve talked to has not been practicing or anything,” Blount said.
While coaches can’t work with their teams in organized practices, some student athletes may choose to work out on their own.
“We can’t control what they do outside of it, but we won’t have any organized practices,” Blount said. “We want them to stay active, and to find something to do. Hopefully they’re doing stuff at home and staying active so they don’t lose everything that they’ve worked hard for.
“We’re hoping that as soon as this is over we can get back to competing and finish the year strong.”
While not quite sure about the suspension, Blount said the hiatus from practicing and playing games is important for the safety of the kids.
“It’s not my expertise,” he said. “I do know that we need to do what’s best for our kids — and if stepping away for a little bit is what we need to do to stop it from spreading, then that’s what we need to do.
“A lot of people know a lot more about than I do, so we’ll trust them and act accordingly.”
Obviously, Blount would rather that school and athletics were proceeding as usual.
“I want to be at school, I want to be around the kids as much as possible,” he said. “We want to be working, we’ve got goals and we want to be workigntogethe to get those goals.
“But at the same time, I want those kids healthy and safe. We just have to go with it and make the best of it that we can. When we get back we’ll get back to work.”
Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org .