When COVID-19 brought the sports world to its knees, Todd Findley experienced a double dose of disappointment.
Findley is the longtime girls soccer coach at Blue Springs South, and his team appeared on the cusp of its biggest season in memory. Findley is also a parent of a Division-I athlete who suddenly found herself without a season.
Todd and Tori Findley fully understand why this had to happen, why this sacrifice is so necessary in the face of a worldwide pandemic. Putting it in perspective is healthy, but it doesn’t make it any easier to take.
The comfort and support they find in each other does.
“If it would have sunk her spirits, it would have been a much more challenging time,” Findley said. “She keeps my spirits up by just being so happy.”
Tori Findley is the youngest of Todd and Netta’s Findley’s three children, a “happy go lucky girl with a great personality” her father says. A state champion in cross country and track at Blue Springs South, Tori is a sophomore distance runner at Missouri, and a promising outdoor track season was about to begin. Knee issues cut short her cross country season last fall, but she felt fine as the indoor season concluded.
Everything was still on just before spring break even after classes were suspended for two weeks. Then all classes went online and the Southeastern Conference and NCAA outdoor championships were canceled. One day later, everything – practices and meets – were scratched for the season and all training facilities closed.
“Everything just happened so quick it was like, ‘What’s going on?’” Tori Findley said. “It was just craziness and I don’t think it set in for everybody.
“It’s been hard. You’re just so used to being in your routine of school and practices and competition and then it’s just all taken away.”
Her father’s soccer team had two weeks of practice before Blue Springs joined other area school districts in shutting down until at least April 24. He was just starting to mold one of the deepest and talented rosters he’s had in his 13 seasons as head coach.
He would have all-state forward Brie Severns, who scored 24 goals and was The Examiner’s 2019 Girls Soccer Player of the Year. He had back most of his midfield, including Khaliana Garrett, a sophomore committed to Kansas State and participated in a prestigious national camp last summer. All-state goalkeeper and K-State signee Alaina Werremeyer was injured and wouldn’t return, but three of his four defenders would.
“We were really, really excited to see them play,” Todd Findley said. “I didn’t want to put any expectations on them, but we were ready to get going and seeing what we have. The excitement was building and then it was a quick shutdown. It’s very disappointing for them.”
Todd Findley has tried to handle their disappointment from afar, but that’s been hard when the thing they want more than anything – to work out and just be together – is impossible. He’s texted some of his players and posted workout ideas, but there isn’t much more he can do.
“They want to know if they can use the field and kick the ball around and I said I’m sorry, we can not do that at all,” Todd Findley said. “You’ll just have to do your best to try to stay fit and healthy.”
Coach Findley encouraged his players to stay active to keep in shape and cope with all the uncertainty. And he’s following his own advice. He’s getting in some runs and taking long walks with his dogs.
It’s helped to have someone else around the house who needs some distraction and exercise, too.
“We just enjoy our time together,” Todd Findley said. “And it’s made me a much happier person and much more flexible as well. We don’t take missing these seasons too hard to be honest. It is what it is and you just try your best and when it gets back hopefully to normal we get back after it.”
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some moments of despair for either. Tori still wonders when she’ll return to Columbia and the house she shared with three other girls. Her dad remains in limbo – spring sports haven’t been canceled as they have been in Kansas, but there’s still no telling when or if they will play.
But they are able to prop each other up.
“Just me having him and him having me and doing something outside and active has really helped us a lot,” Tori Findley said. “Some days I’m like, ‘Oh, I just want to sleep in, I don’t want to run’ and he’s like, ‘Come on, let’s go run real quick.’ Other days he’s like, ‘I can’t run today Tori, I can’t hang with you,’ and I’m like, ‘Come on dad, you’ll be fine.’”
Todd Findley knows he’ll be fine, and that someday soon he’ll be on the sideline with his Jaguars again. And he knows Tori will be fine too and her athletic career at Mizzou will continue.
It’s easy to be optimistic as they pull each other through.
“She’s helped me a ton just staying a good, positive, happy spirit,” Todd Findley said.