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COVID-365: High school sports forced to call multiple audibles during the pandemic

Posted at 7:23 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 07:28:24-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- When COVID shut everything down a year ago, sports were no exception. Either in dramatic fashion or silently through a press release, one by one leagues and sports announced they would be shutting down.

When sports began to return last summer, high school sports were the last to join in. Programs in Virginia didn't begin practicing again until mid-December. The way coaches teach, the way the kids play, and the way parents and families watch have all been drastically altered, if only for this year.

We spoke with four athletic directors at area high schools and asked them what is the biggest way that the COVID pandemic has changed what they do, and how their kids are doing today having gone through one of the biggest transitions they might ever face.

Shea Collins - Midlothian H.S.

"One of the biggest changes for us was having to livestream our games. We had no idea how to do it, no setup, no planning. We've pretty much learned a new job. But I'm thankful that having online tickets and streaming, it has helped people to stay connected and it's helped people watching what is happening at our school that maybe wouldn't have come through Midlothian High School. It's given parents a sense of I can't be with my child, but I can see what they are doing."

Ricky Talman - Thomas Dale H.S.

"There were a LOT of meetings and a lot of different forms that our coaches had to fill out that they never thought they would have to do. Constant communication, transparency about what was coming up next as soon as we heard about it was the name of the game.

Chris Brown - J.R. Tucker H.S.

"Anytime the phone rings you worry a little bit about 'Is this another call about a COVID case?' That concern doesn't go away. We want to make sure we are following whatever guidelines have been presented to us to the letter so that all of these activities we're involved with can go off as normally as possible. "

Greg Woodle - Manchester H.S.

"I became a counselor. And I'm still a counselor whether it's with the kids, the coaches or even with the parents. The one thing I've learned is that parents just want to see their kids. With the restrictions, we've had to get creative. But we got in this business for our kids. Our main goal is to do whatever we can."

Ricky Talman - Thomas Dale H.S.

"The idea of gratitude is a big one that I've been stressing. We don't HAVE to do this, we GET to do this. To understand how quickly and easily something can be taken away that we love, more than anything, COVID has taught us that as well."

Shea Collins - Midlothian H.S.

"The kids have been resilient because the adults are resilient. Even when you have a COVID case within a team, kids don't say 'Oh I don't want to play anymore. I quit, I don't want to get sick.' Even if we've had a case, they rally around each other. I think they are understanding what it means to be safe. They can't just hang out with everyone or go to the places they want to go. I think the kids are being resilient in what they have to do and what is required of them."

Greg Woodle - Manchester H.S.

"Most of our kids are still virtual but the highlight of their day is still to come to practice, to be with their teammates and have 'Lancers' back across their chests."

Chris Brown - J.R. Tucker H.S.

"There hasn't been a practice where the kid's energy level, the excitement to be there, win or lose, good practice, bad practice, pouring rain, freezing cold where I haven't left feeling better than when I got there. They are genuinely excited across the board to be there."

The "fall" sports season is about to enter their playoffs, with the traditional spring sports to follow in their abbreviated seasons. While athletic directors everywhere address daily issues non-stop, they still keep one eye looking forward to next fall when their situations will change again, and hopefully be closer to normal.