There is a new buzzword when it comes to summer and fall high school sports – tentative.
However, recent guidelines and rulings can give all prep coaches and athletes a bit of good news as they deal with isolation during the mandated quarantine.
"Tentative – you’re right there," said Grain Valley High School football coach David Allie, the president of the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association. "Everything is tentative, and challenging. Look, I’m a cup half full type of guy, and so are the coaches I’m visiting with.
"We all want to start getting back out on the field, but we want to do it the right way. And we want everyone to be safe. So right now, we’re doing all the Zoom meetings with our staff and players and talking with them over the phone or internet."
While that does not produce the impact of face-to-face meetings, being able to provide some tentative dates for his players excites Allie.
"June 15 begins a two-week period where students can come and work out outside of our building," the coach said. "They will not be throwing footballs or hitting a baseball – it will be conditioning activities.
"On June 29, our building will open with the restrictions that come from Jackson County. We want to come back, but we want everyone to be safe.
"We want our kids to stay active and not become couch potatoes. We don’t want them to come back and get hurt because they haven’t been working out, although we know it’s been tough to work out because gyms are closed and not all of them have weight equipment at home."
Allie stressed the importance of maintaining a positive attitude, which he always seems to have in these stressful times we are all experiencing.
"If the kids or our coaches see me down, they’re going to be down, and I’m not going to let that happen," Allie said as his football field stands empty on a bright and sunny afternoon in May.
"We’re dealing with history book stuff right now. No one has ever gone through anything like this, and we’re going to get back on the field one day and we’re going to be bigger and stronger, and we’re never going to be as excited to play football and see each other again."
Truman High School football coach Charlie Pugh feels much the same way.
"Oh my, I miss the energy that comes from our students, my players, our staff. I miss the one-on-one time, the chats, the conversations – you name it, I miss it," Pugh said.
Mark Bubalo, the Blue Springs School District activities director, was able to give his coaches an important update this week.
"June 15, all 27 Suburban Conference schools will open their facilities for outside conditioning," Bubalo said. "That’s such great news because it gives us a sense of normalcy, which is something we haven’t experienced in a long time."
Blue Springs South softball coach Kristi Williams is excited about that June 15 date, and even more thrilled that July 6-8 the two-time defending state champion Jaguars will host their camp for incoming freshmen through seniors.
"We’re going to have our camp, and we’re going to do it the right way," Williams said. "We’re going to keep kids in the same groups, wash and sanitize everything between groups and have one coach work with that group to minimize contact with too many individuals."
While nothing has been written in stone, Pugh said it is exciting to think about the June 15 return for conditioning purposes.
"When I see my guys, I’ll just want to run up and hug them," he said, "but we want parents and everyone to know that we are going to do this the right way. It’s going to be different than in the past, but we’re at least – hopefully – going to be together in groups that will not exceed any of the county guidelines."
Pugh sends his students daily messages, videos and his thoughts on their health, both mentally and physically. Pugh tries to get his students to remain engaged.
"This quarantine affects people – students and adults – in different ways," Pugh explained. "Some students’ parents may lose their jobs, students, who are accustomed to coming to school and taking part in activities, are now home and doing all their school work over Zoom (video communications) or Huddle (social network) and we are doing a great job of making the best of a bad situation, but we’ve never experienced anything like this.
"I stress every day for everyone to take care of themselves, their loved ones and their friends. Call your friends if you haven’t heard from them, check on your classmates and teammates. Let them know you care and you are there for them. That’s certainly what I’m trying to do."
The quarantine has forced William Chrisman track coach Tyler Rathke to refocus his feelings on social media, now that a spring track season, that offered so much promise, has been canceled.
There have been a lot of negative connotations in regard to social media," he explained, "but now, I can’t imagine going through all this without social media.
"Nothing is going to replace seeing your kids in the classroom, the hallways or on the track, but all the social media outlets enable us to stay in contact with each other, and that is so important during this quarantine. It’s never been easier to connect with peers, teachers, coaches, administrators and our students than now, and I want to take advantage of that."
Rathke’s fiancee, new Van Horn volleyball coach Jackie Becker, is in a unique position because she wants to meet her players face to face.
"And that’s all tentative," Becker said. "We hear June 15 and July 1 and we really don’t know when we’re going to be able to get together. I am lucky, because I was an assistant the past two years at Van Horn, but we’re all excited about getting together and getting to work, and we just don’t know when that will happen."
High school baseball players who participate in American Legion baseball won’t get to play in that until next year at the earliest. The American Legion Department of Missouri Executive Committee decided to cancel the 2020 season, which normally would have started this weekend and gone through early August.
"The first and foremost reason for our recommendation was the safety and health of our players, coaches and fans," said Independence resident Gary Stone, the chairman of the American Legion Missouri Baseball Committee that recommended cancellation to the Executive Committee. "There are simply too many unknowns to take the risk. Secondly, if we were to sanction play and someone got ill with the virus while at one of our events, that would leave Missouri American Legion in a precarious legal liability situation."
Stone said the decision to cancel – especially after the entire high school season was wiped out by the pandemic – was not easy.
"While some parts are showing signs of recovery, there are still some hot spots around the state," Stone said. "Very difficult decision, and I am sure it will be cussed, discussed, and second guessed to infinity and beyond, but it is the right thing to do."
Then, there are the players – seniors who missed out on their last opportunity to represent their high school or college and college freshmen who never had the chance to play their sport this past spring.
"This is scary – and frustrating – and like something from a movie," said Easton Seib, a Blue Springs South graduate who now plays softball for Valparaiso University. "I’m a paranoid person anyway, and I’m worried about my four grandparents, my dad is immunocompromised and there’s all this talk of quarantines.
Seib was off to a strong start to her college pitching career for the Crusaders. She was 3-2 with one save, a 2.16 earned run average, just six walks allowed and 23 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings when the remainder of the season was canceled.
"We didn’t get to complete our season," she said, "but I found out what college softball was all about, and that will help me the next four years. And we had such a great staff, I think we could have had a really successful season."
Grain Valley High School senior Jacob Misiorowski is missing out on his final season with the Eagles baseball team.
But not all the news is bad. Major League Baseball released a list of the top 200 collegiate and prep draft prospects for the June 10 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft and Misiorowski was ranked No. 160.
"That really surprised and pleased me," said Misiorowski, who had just returned from a facility where he was able to pitch off a mound. "I haven’t been able to pitch 100 percent since last baseball season because I had a high hamstring pull and it really limited what I could do on the mound.
"I did go out to an invitation-only camp in Long Beach, California, where I pitched for the Northwest team, and I did all right, but I wasn’t 100 percent. I’m 100 percent now, and that is one reason I was so excited about this spring, playing with my friends and being healthy."
Now, he is waiting to see what happens in the draft or his upcoming journey to Oklahoma State University, where he has signed with the Cowboys baseball team.
He has options if he goes undrafted. The MLB draft has been reduced from 40 rounds to just five this season, meaning only 160 high school and college players will be chosen, including competitive balance picks and picks taken away from Houston and Boston for the sign stealing scandal. Grain Valley baseball coach Brian Driskell said his prospects are bright either way.
"The sky’s the limit for Jacob right now," Driskell said, "and I think we’re all as excited as he and his family are. He’s such a great kid – and like the nine other seniors on our team, he missed out on that one last chance to pitch for his high school team. And that still hurts."
Another Eagle is junior quarterback Cole Keller, who has had to scramble this spring to find a place to practice, because the high school field is under lockdown.
"It’s tough, but it could be a lot worse," said Keller, a member of the Eagles baseball team who is missing out on his final chance to play with those nine seniors.
"I know things have to get better. We keep hearing dates when things might open, but everything is up in the air, and until it’s official I’m going to keep throwing to some friends and working out at home. That’s about all you can do."