DeKalb coaches react to season's cancellation

Coaches from across DeKalb County shared the sentiments of their players in regard to the spring sports season’s cancellation.

During a joint news conference last Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced that all Alabama public schools will finish the remainder of the school semester at home, forcing a cancellation of the spring sports season.

With the mandatory school closures involving everyone around DeKalb’s athletic community, there was a lot of reaction to go around. The decision to cancel the remainder of the season impacted senior players the most.

Many coaches and players made their reactions public through social media, including Plainview baseball coach Phil Johnson, who sent a message to his senior players on Twitter.

“...This group works. This group cares. This group has great teammates. I hate this for them but I’m thankful that when this is over the world will get to see them. Glad I got to be a small part.”

According to the state superintendent’s follow-up guidance, no face-to-face, in-person instruction, field trips, convocations or gatherings, or athletics will be allowed for the remainder of the school year. 

March 18 was the last day for statewide athletic activity following Ivey’s original mandated suspension of all athletic events, including contests, practices, weightlifting and conditioning. The suspension was slated for a 2 1/2-week period, with a tentative April 6 date for activities to resume before last Thursday’s ruling.

Sylvania baseball coach Ryan Clark posted a thoughtful message to his seniors on Twitter, as well. He described what seniors on spring sports teams are dealing with as “heartbreaking” and lamented how this year’s seniors won’t get to see a proper conclusion to their high school athletic careers.

“To most people, this is just another cancellation caused by coronavirus,” Clark said. “But to many people across the state — baseball, softball, tennis, golf and soccer — it was bigger than that.

“I hate the thought of these young men and women having to live with the unknown for the rest of their lives. That being said, I completely understand why this is the case, and I can’t say I blame the state for making this decision.”

Fort Payne baseball coach Eric Varnadore told The Times-Journal last week that he was amazed at some of the responses he received from his players on how they were handling the difficult news.

“I honestly cannot wait to see what the future holds for these guys,” Varnadore said of his players. “They are living through truly historical times, and I can’t wait to see how they use the lessons that we are all learning on a daily basis to impact this society one day in a mighty way.”

Drake Justus, a senior tennis player at Sylvania, said that although everyone knew the spring season was going to end at some point, nobody wanted to see it end this way.

“I’ve played sports my entire life and if I could go back and do it again I would,” Justus told The Times-Journal last week. “There is nothing better than high school sports. Putting the name of your city across your chest, running out in front of all the fans, there’s nothing like it. 

“I am devastated to hear the news about spring sports being canceled, but I know it’s for our own good and in God’s will.”

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