High School Athletics And Its Battle Against COVID-19
MADISON- The COVID-19 pandemic continues to interfere with high school athletics, although guidelines have been set forth to help prevent the spread of the virus. Those guidelines presented by the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) in conjunction with the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) are meant to decrease potential exposure to respiratory droplets by encouraging social distancing, limiting participation in administrative tasks to essential personnel and allowing for appropriate protective equipment.
Despite the efforts to curtail COVID-19, local teams continue to struggle with the virus from the standpoint of cancelling games and having both players and coaches contract the virus.
At Madison Academy, girls head basketball coach Alissa Flowers was exposed to the virus and she self-imposed a quarantine while an assistant coach and one player were tested positive. During this time the entire squad was quarantined for two weeks.
“I’ve told the three seniors on the team this will certainly be a memorable year,” said Flowers. “We’re already aware this season will have lots of cancellations.”
Madison Academy is certainly not alone in the dilemma of facing the pandemic and still managing quality practice and playing time.
At Bob Jones, due to the possible spread of the virus among the rules and regulations of crowd control and social distancing, the annual N2Hoops Invitational was cancelled. The annual tournament was scheduled to feature 16 teams and bring in large crowds, which means funding dollars for the program.
Luther Tiggs, in his fifth season as head coach of the Bob Jones boys program, said the state guidelines have set the total capacity of the gymnasium at Bob Jones to be 400 where normally 1,300 can attend. “That certainly hurts us financially and I know that type of guidelines hurts every program in our area,” said Tiggs. “We follow the guidelines set that includes distancing and correct ventilation. Our biggest dilemma is how to keep everyone safe.”
Tiggs agreed with other coaches in the area that they hope the season somehow makes it to the AHSAA State Tournament giving the student-athletes something to play for. The Blue State Trophy is what every athlete strives for and being kept from that dream can be devastating to the entire school athletic program.
One junior player on the Bob Jones girls team chose early on not to play this season among the COVID-19 outbreak. Overall, the team has been quarantined twice and its head coach, Jazmin Powers, has said, “This team has worked hard since the last quarantine and these girls want to play an entire season.”
At Sparkman, games have been cancelled and quarantines have been prevalent throughout the summer leading up to the 2020-2021 campaign. “We’ve been stung with COVID since the summer as it seems to be a reoccurring theme as some of our assistant coaches have also been tested positive,” said Patrick Delay, head coach of the Lady Senators at Sparkman.
“I preach to my girls we are blessed to be playing right now,” said Capriee Tucker. The third-year head coach of the James Clemens girls team, which struggled with injuries in 2019-2020, has three starters returning and a chance to play well this season. “I tell my girls to play every game like it’s your last game. You never know each day may be a cancellation. Play hard, that’s all I can ask of the girls right now as they are starting to learn the concept of COVID-19 and our season.”
Tucker added the team follows the rules set forth for the times and do their part to keep everyone safe. She also stated the parents of her squad are the best as they have trust in her and how they’re handling the pandemic. “They know I have their daughters’ best interest,” added Tucker.
To help in the pandemic the NFHS had addressed new considerations for each basketball game. Those new protocols include a limited pre-game meeting at midcourt, instead of the usual spot near the scorer’s table, no handshakes prior to and after a game, new bench situations to help maintain social distancing, especially with the nearby attending fans, and the fact no more ‘jump ball’ to begin the game or overtime. The ‘jump ball’ has been replaced with the visiting team receiving the ball at mid-court to begin each contest. To start an overtime period, a coin toss will be determine which team is awarded the ball.