Spring Sports 2020: What Could Have Been
Grayling High School coaches reflect on the cancellation of the 2020 spring sports season
We have so many athletes in all of our sports that will be affected by this but mostly my heart goes out to the seniors. They have been playing their respective sports for many years and to not have a final season is something that I can never imagine. Everything they have worked for is now suddenly over and there will be no chance for redemption, no chance for one last shot to make states or win conference or win a district title. They will not have the chance to put on their uniforms and play the game they love with their teammates and fellow seniors one last time." – Nate Maury, Coach of the Grayling High School varsity baseball program and Athletic Director for the school district
“Breaks your heart.”
“My heart goes out to the seniors.”
“The season that could have been.”
Coaches, players, and parents found out last week that the spring sports season for Grayling High School and all other schools in Michigan was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
For Grayling High School, the 2020 spring sports season would have included baseball, softball, girls soccer, track, girls tennis, and boys golf.
Craig Cobb, coach of the varsity girls soccer team, said he was “sad” and “disappointed” but not surprised by the announcement.
“So it was the news we all had anticipated,” Coach Cobb said. “I’m sad that we aren’t out there building the soccer skills needed that will push forward into future seasons. I think that is the thing that is most difficult to deal with on the coaching side. The varsity girls soccer team was going to be in a rebuilding year with mainly new and less experienced players joining the team this season. I don’t know what the season would have held for us with wins and losses, but I do know with such a young team we will be missing the foundational skills that would have been developed throughout this season.”
“I will miss working with this great group of ladies. We are all disappointed. I have encouraged the team to take the time to work on their own at home with a soccer ball and that next year we will try and have many open gyms prior to the season beginning,” Coach Cobb said.
Grayling High School’s spring teams practiced for four days, from March 9 through March 12, before a series of executive orders from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and a decision by the Michigan High School Athletic Association closed “in-person learning” in the state and cancelled the rest of the spring sports campaign.
“We started the season off with a very typical routine,” said Mark Sloan, varsity girls tennis coach. “Varsity tennis was assigned to the middle school gym for early practice routines. Twenty-five girls had signed up, 14 returning athletes, 11 new players, a great mix of seniors and underclassmen. We were also able to practice two days on a real tennis court in the newly opened Viking Activity Center.”
“Then things changed drastically,” Coach Sloan said. “With the temporary – now permanent – closing of school, our sport was put on hold. I told the team early on that we were among the schools in our league with the highest number of returning athletes and should be in the position to have a very competitive winning season. The fact that all 14 returning athletes had varsity experience was huge. As we worked through that first week of practice I could see our new students progressing at a great pace, I thought, ‘Oh what a great season we are going to have.’”
Coach Sloan said one of the team’s mantras, “the more you hit the better you get,” was working during early practice sessions.
“We were hitting as many tennis balls as we could and it looked like we were off to another fun season. The weather looked like it would cooperate and after spring break we would be outside on real courts playing real tennis. What more could a coach ask for?” Coach Sloan said.
“I look at 2020 as the season that could have been. Could have been a competitive year for the Vikings, could have been a year to introduce 11 new athletes to tennis, could have been a year for fond and sometimes funny memories, could have been a lot different than our current reality,” Coach Sloan said. “What 2020 has been? It has been a season of growing and maturing beyond normal.”
Coach Sloan said he’s proud of his players as athletes and as students.
“Over the past 10 or 11 years that I have coached tennis, Grayling has always been an all-state academic team. As a team we have had very high GPAs and ranked in the upper tier of teams competing in MHSAA tennis,” Coach Sloan said. “I have always been very proud of how our team represents our school and our community. Our number one singles player, Madison Hehir, is the class of 2020 Valedictorian. Alexandria Alma and Christina Gilkerson were also listed in the top 12 for the class of 2020.”
“My heart goes out to all the girls on our team but especially to my senior athletes. These girls have come so far over their high school career, both as athletes and people. I have watched these kids become better citizens, classmates, and tennis players. Community involvement and compassion for their school is topnotch. I know as these girls venture out into life beyond high school they will do well, and they will continue to play tennis,” Coach Sloan said.
The track program also had several returning athletes, including three state qualifiers from 2019.
“It’s hard to think that there won’t be a track season this year,” said Michelle Moore, track and field coach for Grayling High School. “The hardest part of this is to see the seniors miss out on their final season. We had three seniors – Allie Moffit, Eli Jackson, and Max Halstead – who qualified for the state meet last year and I was looking forward to seeing them work to get there again. I was also looking forward to seeing Sarah Rakoczy finish her senior year after missing out last year with an injury. Other seniors that will be missed for their strong competitive nature are Zach Osga, Brendon Poll, CeCe Cvitkovich, Brandy Tackett, Domanik Masella, Caden Arredondo, and Anthony Pringle. They’ve been a big part of our running family and their contributions will be missed.”
“I was looking forward to another great season on the golf course,” said Brad Duncan, coach of the GHS varsity boys golf team. “Our team was looking good with lots of potential. It is hard to process that the season is canceled. I feel terrible for everyone, but especially the senior class. Trying to keep a positive outlook and looking forward to when we can play again. Get out and swing your clubs. Keep your heads up and stay safe. Reach out to a friend in need. We will get through this.”
Doug Paulus, coach of the varsity girls softball team, said he was expecting a good year with a group that included several returning players, and he felt bad for the seniors.
“Disappointing to say the least, after we built so hard to get to the point where we thought we had something,” Coach Paulus said. “Hopefully we take something out of this and move forward. I guess I’m an old-fashioned believer in there’s always a silver lining. The silver lining is there’s more time to build yourself today than ever.”
“I see girls like Jenna Schwartz, a senior who’s put three years in, who’s already put (record) numbers on the board. I can’t even imagine what it’s like sitting in her shoes. Jocelyn Brown, quietly, what she put in in the offseason was truly that senior thing, she had gone to the next level,” Coach Paulus said. “To put that kind of work in and get shut down, breaks your heart.”
Coach Paulus said he’s tried to keep in contact with players and offer support.
“I think in girls’ sports we’re family and we’ve gotta play that all the way through,” Coach Paulus said. “They need our support. We’ve gotta work on that every day.”
“It has been hard to grasp the idea that spring sports will not be taking place this year,” said Nate Maury, coach of the Grayling High School varsity baseball program and Athletic Director for the school district. “We have so many athletes in all of our sports that will be affected by this but mostly my heart goes out to the seniors. They have been playing their respective sports for many years and to not have a final season is something that I can never imagine. Everything they have worked for is now suddenly over and there will be no chance for redemption, no chance for one last shot to make states or win conference or win a district title. They will not have the chance to put on their uniforms and play the game they love with their teammates and fellow seniors one last time.”
“Most if not all of our current student-athletes were born after 9/11 so this is their first time dealing with something that affects the entire country and brings everything to a standstill. They are going through something that their children will be learning about when they are in school and at this point in their lives it is hard to figure out what the next step is,” Coach Maury said.
“My message to all of the senior athletes is to take a step (back) and look at the big picture. Yes, athletics has been something that they have been involved in all of their lives but it will just be a small part of their life in the end. Take everything that they have learned through sports and now start to apply it to the real world,” Coach Maury said. “I am truly sorry that they will not get the chance at playing again and I want to personally thank them for everything that they have done for our school district and community.”
“For every other athlete, please keep putting in the work to get better. Use this missed season as a chance to break down your game and work on your weaknesses. Go back to the fundamentals and build yourself back up. Your hard work during these times will pay off in the end and make your season next year even more memorable,” Coach Maury said.
The next sports season is fall of 2020, the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
Eric Tunney, coach of the varsity football program at Grayling High School, said the coronavirus situation is already affecting his squad’s preparations for the 2020 campaign, and he offered a few words for the current spring sports athletes.
“It certainly is uncharted waters and unfortunate for all of the athletes and coaches but especially for the seniors,” Coach Tunney said. “I can think of a good amount of them that their spring sport was their number one sport and my heart breaks for them. When you stop and think about what your favorite sport was and then consider not having been able to play that your senior year, it puts things into perspective and is an awful feeling. I think about in years past when a kid was injured during their senior season and couldn’t play and how tragic that was; this is essentially happening to every senior that plays a spring sport.”
“Underclassmen will hopefully get another crack at it and I hope they gain some perspective and appreciation for the opportunities we all are afforded each day. Sports are such an important part of our lives and development as a person. With all that being said, I think for the most part our kids our resilient and will get through this. We will all hopefully get through this stronger and appreciate our relationships, jobs, and opportunities that we have each day,” Coach Tunney said. “As a coach, I cannot imagine this happening. All of the offseason work that gets put in and to not give the kids a chance to compete is sad. It is unprecedented times and we will just have to adapt and overcome. It’s really just a bummer for the kids. I know the coaches are disappointed and frustrated but we will get a chance to coach again. The kids won’t get this back.”
“As football coach, we are going to lose a lot of contact and workout time, which is unfortunate. I miss seeing the kids every day in school, in class, and in the weight room. We’ve been trying to do virtual workouts and they have been going well. Many kids are limited with internet so we are trying to find ways to engage them. My hope is that we can get the virus under control and have some sort of a normal summer and fall. We will get through this. Viking Nation has been through more difficult times. Grayling Strong, Viking Tough,” Coach Tunney said.