Editor’s note: The Post Register will be honoring spring senior athletes next week. Any suggestions for stories, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like most high school coaches in the area, Thunder Ridge tennis coach Heath Hartman said he was prepared for the tough news on Friday.
That didn’t make it any easier when word finally came down from the Idaho High School Activities Association that the spring sports season was officially canceled.
The IHSAA cancelled the remainder of the season, citing safety guidelines established by Governor Brad Little and the Idaho State Board of Education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the COVID-19 situation continued to evolve, it became apparent that these state events could not be held safely and still follow the parameters set by the governor, SBOE and the IHSAA,” the IHSAA said in a statement.
The spring season had already been suspended twice based on stay-at-home guidelines by the governor and “soft” school closures established by the board of education. Teams were not allowed to practice or use school facilities or even meet in groups or with coaches during the suspension.
Most athletes worked out on their own and established routines to keep ready in hopes the season would resume.
But as the April 20 deadline loomed, the reality started to set in. Coaches and athletic directors started making contingency plans but the IHSAA had already determined that the state tournaments, scheduled for May 11-16, would likely not be pushed back due to other scheduled events such as senior days and graduations.
Idaho Falls athletic director Pat Lloyd said District 6 athletic directors communicated regularly during the spring sports suspension, making plans for a modified season if the season resumed.
“We’d been in communication with the state board (of education) through virtual meetings and things like that throughout the process,” Lloyd said. “They obviously were waiting as long as they possibly could before making a decision. Once the governor decided to extend the stay-at-home order, it kind of forced the board’s hand.”
Idaho Falls baseball coach Trent Johnson said the decision to cancel the season was not a surprise, especially once the governor and the board of education made their decisions earlier in the week.
“I think all we can ask for is (that) the association was patient, and looked at the situation and established if it was a safe environment for the kids and they did what they could to provide an opportunity, not only for the seniors, but all the kids … but when we got the call today it was extremely disappointing.”
He said he’s hopeful that American Legion baseball could still be played this summer, even if the schedule is pushed back.
“I’m optimistic we can get this thing going in the summer,” Johnson said. “All the spring sports kids deserve an opportunity in the summer.”
In its statement, the IHSAA noted it was a sad day for Idaho athletes, but that the overall priority was to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved.
“Situations like these will allow students to use the life lessons learned in education — based activities to cope with the adversity as well as they possibly can. We look forward to getting together and playing when the time is right and it can be done safely,” the statement read.
Bonneville athletic director Tyler Johnson said the district had taken a wait and see approach after the suspension was pushed to April 20.
“Even if we were going to open up, it would be just for the last weeks of the year,” he said. “School districts are ending at different times. It got to the point where I don’t know how you could have an equitable state tournament, how could you have a district tournament?”
“Ultimately, they’re doing it for the safety of our student athletes,” Lloyd said. “That’s what I try to remember when I get sad or angry. Our coaches don’t do this for the money. They do this for the kids. My heart breaks for all our student athletes, especially the seniors. From coaching activities, I know the type of dedication they have. To lose out on the opportunity this spring, my heart breaks for them.”
The sentiment was the same for Tyler Johnson.
“Not seeing the kids and not being around the athletes, it was like being in the Twilight Zone,” he said. “I’m sure the other ADs feel the same.”