Wednesday was supposed to be one of my favorite days of the year: the first day of high school fall sports.
Tryouts would’ve commenced around the state of Maryland this morning. Cross-country runners would’ve been trekking through campuses while football players would’ve begun their preparations to be one of the few teams to make it beyond Thanksgiving — a sign of a special season.
Volleyballs would’ve been bouncing off forearms and floors inside gyms. Boys’ and girls’ soccer players would’ve been lacing up cleats, too, and field hockey players would’ve kept this reporter with a bad back wondering how they don’t suffer more pain from constantly hunching over to play the ball.
This, of course, didn’t happen. High school stadiums and practice fields were empty Wednesday, just as they have been since March 12 when the coronavirus pandemic became a real thing. Spring sports were eventually canceled, and last week the MPSSAA postponed the fall and winter seasons, too.
On Thursday, The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, which are each comprised of 29 Baltimore-area private schools, postponed fall sports indefinitely, another significant blow to any possibility of high school sports competition in Maryland until 2021.
It was the right decision. The pandemic is still that, and coronavirus hasn’t left us. High school sports simply can’t happen in that environment. There is too much risk.
That doesn’t make Wednesday any less sad, or whatever synonym you come up with. Waking up to see Twiter and Facebook posts from team accounts were a reminder I didn’t need, as Aug. 12 was a day I had circled on my calendar when I became sports editor at The Capital on Jan. 6. A new school year, a new season in a new place. A time to elevate the coverage of Anne Arundel County to another level with the help of my colleagues.
Still, the reality of the situation surrounding high school sports continues to become more real daily. The uncertainty is probably the worst part. Neither AACPS nor MPSSAA have announced any plans for when sports may return for the teenagers who only have four years to play. Even if they did, there are no guarantees for the future. But a new day to circle on my calendar would be welcome.
No, public high school sports in Maryland won’t happen in 2020, private school sports likely won’t either. But sports will, somewhere. In Anne Arundel County, recreational youth sports haven’t ceased, and without a prep season I imagine high schoolers will find ways to play, too. Athletes always seem to find a way. It’s in their DNA.
For the leagues and teams that will inevitably pop up this fall to allow kids to play, I only ask to remember safety first. It should be no secret by now that wearing a mask and keeping distance when possible are effective ways to avoid the spread of this virus. Hard to do in sports, yes, but not impossible. When not in action, it should be much easier — and the adults should make sure those rules are followed.