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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Mar. 18, 2020 2 years ago

Coronavirus creates chaos in the sports world

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While the virus has put an end to national and international sports, it also has finally taken its toll at the high school level across the state of Florida.
by: Troy Herring Former Sports Editor

On Friday, March 13, Orange County Public Schools released an update on the coronavirus that had been long awaited: Schools were being closed down for two weeks.

With that announcement also came the news that all extracurricular activities — including sports — would be suspended. That includes no practices, no workouts and no games.

That news hit hard, and for many coaches and athletes around the state — and beyond — it leads to more questions than answers, said West Orange High softball coach Todd LaNeave. 

“My concern as this thing is going on is how long — if they do any more closures — are we talking about?” LaNeave said. “And if we are going to be able to play at all the rest of the season.” 

“It will be interesting (to see) after playing a pretty good schedule, and (then) taking two weeks off and trying to come back and get ready to play again,” he said.

LaNeave’s team had already dealt with a game cancellation when Montverde Academy shut down earlier in the week, and now it’ll be missing out on a couple of big games at the Tournament of Champions in Jacksonville. Then, the game on the March 26 against The Villages Charter was canceled.

“That’s a little disappointing,” LaNeave said. “Not disappointing from the fact that they are doing (it) — I completely understand it — but it is kind of a shame, I guess, because that would have been a good one for us and it has been the last couple of years to give us some looks at teams that we don’t typically see.”

The idea of “disappointed, but understanding” seems to be the general consensus among those in the sports community, and so was the struggle of figuring out how to handle the schedule.

It’s tough enough as it is to put a schedule together in the first place, so throwing a wrench the size of a global pandemic into the mix makes it daunting.

Over at Legacy Charter High School, the Eagles baseball team — which currently sits at 9-2 and is having an impressive season — will be losing out on four games and there is no telling if they’ll be able to make them up, said head coach Jack Chambless. The schedule changes also lead to a slew of other issues, as well.

“I don’t know anything about what the state would then do about our tournaments, about how MaxPreps will be used,  whether we are going to be allowed to reschedule games and whether it affects pitch-count policies,” Chambless said. “We’re just out in the dark until they let us know what we are going to be allowed to do. 

“I know I have already reached out to schools running through April 3 about playing double headers or rescheduling for April — I’m assuming we’ll be allowed to put in more games in April, and that’s what I’m going to try to do so we don’t lose those games,” he said. 

“My concern as this thing is going on is how long — if they do any more closures — are we talking about? And if we are going to be able to play at all the rest of the season.” 

— Todd LaNeave, WOHS softball coach

While coaches struggle to figure out plans, athletes are left to either sit around the house or do private workouts away from school. The good news for high school athletes is there still is the possibility of going back to their sport, but for those on the collegiate level, the season is done.

Following in the footsteps of the NBA and other professional leagues, the NCAA completely canceled its spring sports. For Lyndsey Huizenga — a Windermere Prep alumna and current freshman swimmer at the University of Tennessee — the news came fast and hard.

The Volunteers had just won their first SEC title in swimming and diving, and Huizenga and her team were looking forward to competing in the NCAA tournament in Athens, Georgia. They were projected to be among the few favorites to win it all, and then, all of a sudden, it was over. 

“Friday morning we had practice, and then Friday afternoon they were like, ‘Oh, well the NCAAs just got canceled,’” Huizenga said. “It was kind of crazy how in the span of a few hours something that meant so much was just gone.”

That feeling hit hard for the seniors on the team, she said, but with the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility to athletes, it quells those worries. But that’s only for college — high school seniors aren’t that lucky.

While it’s not known how long the season will be suspended, there are nerves for seniors like Legacy baseball player Justin LaGasse. LaGasse, like many seniors, is still deciding what his future holds, so it’s understandable that there would be anxiety as the suspended season continues. 

“It’s a worry,” LaGasse said. “I feel like in the end it’ll be ok — I’m not too worried about it being canceled — and I’m trying not to really think about it, because it’s my last year and I’m still deciding if I want to play in college. 

“This is where I’m deciding, ‘Am I in love with this sport?’” he said. “And I really wanted this senior year to decide that, so to make that decision without my senior year — that would be really tough.”

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Troy Herring was the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com.

See All Articles by Troy

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