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Bowie State and Bowie High look to the future of sports as pandemic continues

Bowie State University’s athletic director Clyde Doughty was at the NCAA Division II women’s basketball tournament getting ready for the team’s first-round match up when the season was canceled.

“We didn’t know really what was going on but for health reasons the decision was made to cancel the tournament,” Doughty said.

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The transition to off-campus learning was unusual for student-athletes, and Doughty wanted them to focus strictly on academics while not playing sports. Working with the institution to get players the necessary equipment was the first step.

“It was a real challenge for all of us. From March until now we just managed it like this,” Doughty said.

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With no sports at Bowie State for almost a year, Doughty said it has been rough. On phone calls with coaches, one thing is apparent, players want to play. He believes there is a void in the players’ lives currently.

“Sports drove them to other things, because of sports they have to do well in school with sports gone where is the drive now?” Doughty said. “We’re trying to fill that void much as possible.”

Mental health has been a focus for Doughty throughout this pandemic and keeping in constant contact with players and coaches is important. For the leaders in the department, he said, “It has been difficult to get our arms around everyone and keep their spirits up, engaged and involved.”

“There is some needs that our players have beyond academics. Some homes are conducive to learning and impact their mental health,” Doughty added. “We’re doing the best we can and focusing on one case at a time.”

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The word to describe the 2020 sports world would be “chaos” for Doughty. “This isn’t what we are accustomed to,” he said.

Bowie State will not play men’s or women’s basketball this winter as the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association on Dec. 14, canceled the 2020-21 seasons due to growing coronavirus concerns. The campaign for the Division II conference for historically black colleges and universities was scheduled to start Jan. 9.

“I wanted to play but I am worried about something going wrong,” Doughty said. “Everyone wants to play but at what cost do we do that.”

The campus would be buzzing right now with games going on, but Doughty described it as quite eerie.

“We look forward to sports next year and we are glad the NCAA is allowing seniors to get an extra year of eligibility,” Doughty said.

Bowie High School’s athletic director, Jessica Brandt, is expecting to have sporting events in spring 2021.

“I could not see another year without sports. In this county we are pushing hard for spring sports since those kids missed last year. We don’t want them to miss two seasons in a row,” Brandt said.

A leadership panel for the county has put together a plan of action if they do come back with how much PPE they would need and how things would work, Brandt said.

If they do have spring sports, there would be no fans or possibly family only. Games and matches would be livestreamed, Brandt said. There would be no JV teams to limit the number of players.

Practices for spring sports — baseball, lacrosse, softball, outdoor track and tennis — were starting up before the pandemic and its season was canceled.

“A lot of us just thought we would be closed for two weeks or so, but it extended to the whole year and it was heartbreaking for the athletes,” Brandt said.

Every day through 2020 Brandt received questions or comments to see if sports would start back up.

“I missed the interactions with the players and coaches throughout the year. The excitement on their faces when they win games and receive scholarships,” Brandt said. “You miss all that camaraderie, it’s like a big family.”

Coaches have been teaching virtually by helping players put together film and ways to get recruited while at home, Brandt said. Players are still going over plays and working out on their own.

Once a week Bowie High holds a virtual meeting with players to talk with guest speakers or each other. Countywide in Prince George’s they have motivational speakers to virtually talk with players.

“They talk about how the players are doing in general, how they are handling COVID, what are they doing at home, how they stay motivated,” Brandt said.

With the vaccine, Brandt is hoping the county can get back to some normalcy and be able to adapt to play sports.

Brandt’s goal for this new year is to find ways for players to get seen by colleges. Another goal is getting players’ GPAs up while learning remotely.

Capital Gazette sports editor Tim Schwartz contributed to this article.

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