Disappointment, but with understanding of the situation, was the reaction of high school athletic officials to the announcement Thursday by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association to cancel all remaining sports for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year as the state continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously, I don’t think anybody wanted to see that happen. I think everybody understands that the LHSAA was put in a very tough predicament,” said St. Charles Catholic baseball coach Wayne Stein.
“It’s tough,” said Brandon Walters, West St. John’s athletic director and head football coach. “So many kids have put in the work and coaches as well. Softball and baseball had already gotten started and even track our kids ran in a couple of meets. Everybody kind of understood that may take place but I guess the finality of it being here and hearing that and actually see the decision being made is just another blow dealing with this virus and the affect it’s had on everybody.”
“With the situation we are in as a state, and even more locally in St. James Parish with the number of cases that you had, you saw that this was probably inevitable. With the superintendents coming out yesterday with their requests to shut down schools for the rest of the school year, you kind of saw what the writing on the wall was. I think Mr. (Eddie) Bonine and the LHSAA held out for pretty much as they could have and then had to make what was a tough decision,” said Lutcher athletic director and head football coach Dwain Jenkins, who also is the president of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association.
Stein, who’s Comets were in the midst of trying to defend their 2019 Division III state championship when play was halted, said the situation is especially difficult for high school seniors.
“I just feel so much for my seniors – really for everybody – but mostly because of my seniors because it’s a year that no one can ever get back. More than anything, the high school kid is the only person that can’t get the year back. In college, yeah, they lost it but they were able to grant them another year. That high school senior is affected by it more than anybody,” Stein.
Other athletic officials mirrored Stein’s sentiments.
“I just feel sadly for our seniors that their careers have culminated to this,” said Frank Monica, St. Charles Catholic’s athletic director and head football coach. “We are grateful to our seniors for what they’ve given us over the last five years. Their dedication to their sport just mad our athletic department so much stronger and more stable.
“We had a very promising spring future with the playoffs in our spring sports. I thought baseball and softball both had very good chances after getting off to great starts. Track was improving and our golf team was supposed to be a contender, along with tennis. You feel for those kid who don’t get an opportunity for closure.”
“You feel bad for those kids that weren’t able to finish and get closure to their high school careers. For so many kids, this is it. High school sports is the end of their playing days. It’s something most of them have probably done since they were four or five years old. To see it come to an end without any true closure is disappointing,” said Jenkins.
The following is the announcement released by Bonine, the LHSAA’s executive director.
“As you are all aware, Governor John Bel Edwards in consultation with the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) jointly announced in his proclamation on Friday, April 3, 2020 that all Louisiana public K-12 school facilities will remain closed through April 30, 2020. Yesterday, April 8, 202 the Louisiana Association of State Superintendents (LASS) submitted a written request to our Governor to keep school facility closures in place the remainder of the school year. However, school systems are encouraged to engage with students and families providing alternative distance education opportunities as capabilities exist. The distance learning delivery system(s) and the timeline(s) established are at the discretion of the Local Education Association (LEA) for the remainder of April. The LDOE and BESE stand committed to the school systems as they make local decisions surrounding distance education opportunities for the remainder of the school year. LDOE has committed to working with LEA’s on the creation of a distance learning plan for their community. Since that announcement, and due to the severity of the virus and its spread, the continued uncertainty of circumstances surrounding our membership, their facilities, coupled with the importance of protecting the health and safety of our athletes, their families, potential spectators, coaches and game officials, the LHSAA Executive Committee, on recommendation from this office and its staff, approved the cancellation of all remaining 2019-2020 winter sports championship, as well as, all spring sports regular seasons and those respective spring sport championships.
“This decision was not in haste and was discussed with tremendous concern for those senior athletes being affected. We realize and concur with the argument about returning to normalcy and allowing seniors to have their moment, just like we did for boys’ basketball championships, unfortunately, circumstances today are tremendously different than circumstances were that week in March. We understand the hardships and disappointments everyone, especially the class of 2020, is enduring due to the closure of schools facilities but our overwavering focus must now remain on doing our part by continuing to follow any/all mitigation measures set forth by our Governor.
“In closing, moving forward, I, along with designated LHSAA staff and the LHSAA Executive Committee will discuss potential permissive summer activities and/or make proactive plans for “if” the virus affects the opening of schools and potentially the beginning of LHSAA sanctioned fall sports seasons for 2020-2021.”