Locked Out: Coaches, athletes reeling with seasons in limbo

  • The gate at Saye Field at Hart County High School is locked with a note about the grounds being off limits.
    The gate at Saye Field at Hart County High School is locked with a note about the grounds being off limits.

The remainder of the 2020 spring sports’ season is in limbo for Hart County athletes, and a resolution to rectify an unprecedented season-postponement due to Covid-19 threats isn’t in sight.

Hart County Athletic Director Rance Gillespie says he’s never seen anything like it.

“We don’t know what we’re dealing with,” Gillespie told The Hartwell Sun this week. “There’s some precedents that have been set by the NCAA and the way that they’re handling things, but we can’t follow all of those things, nor can we grant an extra year of eligibility to our seniors in spring sports.”

Gillespie said there has been a lot of speculation as to what will happen next with how the remaining schedules, playoffs and championships are dealt with, but ultimately there are no answers.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Gillespie said. “We’re just kind of all sitting and waiting, and that’s basically what our athletes are doing as well.”

In response to Gov. Brian Kemp’s order to close Georgia’s public schools, the Georgia High School Association ensured the mandatory closures extend to all GHSA sports and activities including practice.

Athletes are not permitted to use school facilities, participate in any one-on-one work or practice during this period.

“Schools are scheduled to reopen on March 31 and we will follow the guidance available to us at that time,” according to a statement from the GHSA on March 17. “The safety of our student athletes and all of those that they come in contact with is our top priority.”

Gillespie, who is also the head football coach, said the closures could impact the upcoming annual spring football training.

“It could mean that there is no spring football,” Gillespie said. “We don’t know anything right now.”

The uncertainty of whether or not teams will finish out the season doesn’t sit well with coaches or players.

“I don’t know if we’ll get to finish or not and that’s just an eerie thought,” head baseball coach Josh Osborne said last week.

For seniors participating in spring sports, it could mean they don’t get to finish their final season of high school sports.

“Sports being put on pause is already a struggle, but when it affects seniors like myself, it takes the struggle to a whole new level. The thought of us not finishing the remainder of our senior season hurts because we’ve worked so hard to get where we are to accomplish a tremendous goal, and then all of a sudden it gets shut down,” senior track and field athlete Kaimon Rucker said this week. “That truly hurts. However, all we can do is pray to the Lord, stay on the grind and abide by CDC rules because we’ll never know when that door will open back up again.”

The National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled all spring sports championships this year and many of the major conferences have ended their seasons. Several professional sports leagues have postponed their seasons as well, including the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB). Also this week, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, originally to begin in July, were postponed until 2021.

The GHSA Associate Directors are set to meet Friday, March 27, to plan for all scenarios pertaining to the 2020 spring sports season and spring championships. 

“All we can do is take the information available to us at the time and make the best decisions we can moving forward. Our top priority is the safety of our student athletes and those with whom they have contact,” GHSA Executive Director Robin Hines said in a statement.