The news was not unexpected, but that does not make it any less heartbreaking for players and their families, coaches and activities directors as the Missouri State High School Activities Association officially canceled all spring sports Thursday afternoon.
Following Gov. Mike Parson’s announcement earlier in the day that the state’s schools would close for the rest of the academic year, the Missouri State High School Activities Association announced Thursday afternoon that it was canceling all spring sports postseason events.
"This decision is very difficult for all involved especially given the impact it will have on our students, parents, coaches, teachers, and administrators throughout the state," MSHSAA Executive Director Kerwin Urhahn said in a press release. "We thank all of the participants, the coaches/directors/advisors, the administrations, the parents, and everyone else who has dedicated tremendous amounts of time, passion, and effort to these events."
Many area activities directors said they saw it coming likely, but it doesn’t make the reality of it any easier.
Blue Springs School District activities director Mark Bubalo just got off a conference call with Urhahn when he was asked about the decision.
"It’s just heartbreaking," Bubalo said Thursday afternoon. "Activities directors from across the state held a conference call with Kerwin today, and we were all holding out, hoping that we could at least get a portion of the spring season in, but when the governor canceled school, that pretty much put an end to it.
"This is something we have never had to deal with, and we’re all going to come up with the answers to everyone’s questions. My heart just breaks for all student-athletes, but especially our seniors. We’ll have more definitive answers once we all get together and talk about this next week."
For Grain Valley activities director Brandon Hart, there are no answers.
"My wife just told me, and one of the first things I thought about was our baseball team – with nine seniors – who have been dreaming about this season since they were 5 or 6 years old.
"My heart hurts for all our student-athletes – they are going to miss out on the competition, the memories of a spring season – but those seniors are going to miss out on that one last go-round, that one last hurrah."
Grain Valley had two returning all-state players – pitcher Jacob Misiorowski, an Oklahoma State signee, and outfielder Mason Rogers – among those returning nine.
"Our baseball team had the chance to really make some history this year, and like all our other athletes, that has been taken away from them," Hart said. "I don’t think anyone is surprised by this decision. I kind of anticipated it, but I wish I had some magic fairy dust I could sprinkle and make this all go away."
The decision made Ryan Schartz, Fort Osage activities director and former Indians head football coach, think back to a memorable state championship season.
"I thought back to 2015 and what I would have told my players if someone told me after that semifinal win that we weren’t going to the Dome (in St. Louis) for the championship," Schartz said.
"I’m an old guy, and I’m going to be back season after season. But for the kids, especially the seniors, this is a one-time go-round," Schartz added. "How do you tell (former all-state quarterback and Simone Award winner) Skylar Thompson he’s not going to have the chance to go to state? And now, we have to tell all our kids this spring season is gone. It’s all new, we’re in uncharted territory, but that doesn’t make it any easier, does it?"
Van Horn activities director Chris Corrie had a unique take: "We tell them their season is over. And in the next breath we tell them, ‘It’s time to turn in your uniforms and equipment.’
"It all just seems so unfair. It’s tough, so tough. I was talking with Daniel (Bieser) at Truman and Greg (McGhee) over at Chrisman, and it all just seemed so surreal. We’ve never had to deal with anything like this, and we hope we never have to deal with anything like this again."
Bieser and McGhee agreed.
"I’m still trying to take all this in," said Bieser, the first-year AD at Truman. "No one has an answer right now. I know I certainly don’t. Chris and Greg and I are all going to talk next week – but that’s not going to make it any easier to tell our kids and coaches that their spring season is over."
McGhee took the situation a step further when he addressed other activities like graduation and the various senior award ceremonies.
"We’re going to have to come up with some virtual ceremonies for our seniors. They can’t miss every moment that should create a lifetime of memories," he said. "And for our student-athletes, it just makes me sick. For a great kid like Sam Hawley, our student body president, to miss out on his senior tennis season just isn’t right. He’s a kid who is doing everything he can to keep all of our spirits up with his daily videos, and spirit days. It’s just not right.
"For all to do down the drain is so disappointing. I don’t think anyone was surprised by today’s decision, but that doesn’t make it any easier."
Lee’s Summit North activities director Mike McGurk also felt bad that the seniors’ entire final high school spring sports season was falling victim to the coronavirus.
"It’s disappointing for the seniors, for sure – especially for the ones who aren’t going on to play college athletics to not even have an opportunity to play a game or socialize," McGurk said. "We really sympathize with what they’re going through. Can’t really empathize because none of us have really gone through something like that."
McGurk said Lee’s Summit North is still going to recognize the seniors who didn’t get to play this spring. Among the plans are a digital awards program and recognition for would-be varsity team members.
"We’re going to do the best we can to ease kids into it and maybe erase some of that disappointment of not being able to compete as a senior," McGurk said.
While McGurk still held out some hope for spring sports, Thursday’s decision didn’t come as a surprise.
"When you looked at the landscape … more and more states were closing down," McGurk said. "You kind of got the sense that it was going to happen, it was just a matter of when and who was going to make the call.
"It does bring some closure, which is nice. Now we can start collecting information from seniors and recognizing them. I didn’t want to do that before because I didn’t want to take away any hope from the kids that they may have their season."
Spring championships play a large role in MSHSAA’s annual revenue, though communications director Jason West told the Columbia Daily Tribune Monday that was not a consideration in the decision process.
"On one hand, we’re trying not to string people along," West said about keeping the door open for spring sports. "But at the same time, we don’t want to have to flip-flop and say, ‘OK, well, sorry guys.’ We can’t bluff and then two days later find out that we really can (hold some kind of season) and now everyone has to get geared back up."
Uhrhahn said in the press release that MSHSAA will work to resume high school sports and activities for the 2020-21 school year.