Fall athletes run the fields of summer with trepidation

Rumors abound like short-term renters
July 24, 2020

Trepidation is a four-syllable word coaches don’t want inside the heads of their athletes. But there is a fear factor facing fall sports as pundits weigh in like recidivists at a Jenny Craig clinic. 

“Right now everything is up in the air,” is the common refrain as everyone who ever thought of playing a sport has a version of what they have heard. Midsummer open fields for sports like soccer, field hockey, football and lacrosse are not half-baked ideas. Those turf fields are fully baked with temps soaring to over 100 degrees.  

The athletes show up and get shot in the forehead with a laser to check temperature and must carry their own water bottles as sharing is not allowed. But a person would have to be in the clinical category of OC disorder to fully observe all protocols. For example, a lacrosse ball leaves the field and a parent on the sidelines picks it up and throws it back in the game. “Rona on rubber” goes straight to the ball washer.

Cape girls’ basketball got gobsmacked down in March when the season was canceled before the semifinal round. Having your balloon popped is a life lesson all teenagers can do without.

“I just didn’t know what to say to them,” said coach Pat Woods, who is spiritually dialed in. “I just felt so bad for the players.”

That was followed by spring practices starting up. There were even play days, but a dark cloud loomed. And when major events like the NCAA March Madness tournament and NBA season were shut down, followed by colleges telling all students and athletes, “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here,” high school spring sports were doomed to the tomb of despair. 

Cape girls’ lacrosse was looking at state title No. 12 in a row. The boys’ team figured it had a chance to repeat as state champions. Baseball was quietly loaded up ready to compete. Softball was poised for a comeback season. Boys’ and girls’ track had big numbers and were aiming for Henlopen Conference titles. Girls’ soccer looked strong and ready to rock. 

Then one rug was pulled from under the collective feet of all teams and athletes, all on a magic carpet ride with a maniacal magician at the controls. 

In Delaware, even the beaches were closed to the sent-home local kids while some adults staked claims to private ownership. Locals on lockdown quickly turned to the “tourists stay home” mentality, which was self-destructive to the local economy. 

Senior athletes went to the land of the lost file, while on Facebook, adults posted photos of their own graduations in a weird Sympatico of Sharing that seemed strange from a distance of 20 to 50 years. 

Figuring the rhyme or reason behind midsummer sports leagues has been like walking face-first through a six-foot-wide spiderweb stretched across a barely beaten path. “Where is the spider who built this bad boy?'' is the only question asked as you smack yourself in the face.  

What’s going to happen this August in Delaware when Gov. John Carney announces the state plan to reopen schools? And how will DIAA follow that with sports recommendations? 

The coaches and athletes are unsettled; ironically, you cannot dumb down a smart kid as easily as you can slow down a frontline athlete. 

Cape field hockey is loaded with good players, as is rival Delmar. It is unthinkable that teams could lose an entire season or play an abbreviated state schedule with no championship tournament. 

Cape football in July is looking stronger and deeper, bolstered by a few transfer students. Absolutely no one is excited about playing the sport in the spring or impressed that Delaware State and Delaware have canceled the fall season for all sports. 

Volleyball is played inside. “It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.” Talk about catching a spiked ball in the face! Pandemic pundits will prattle on endlessly about indoor transmission. Cross country season brings hundreds of high school kids herd-running in the same direction through the colors of fall foliage. Staying still and sheltered at home is just so unnatural to these athletes. 

The Lone Ranger was the solo masked man, but if everyone is masked, we become a society of Strange Rangers. Pandemic messaging has proven that humans will risk it all for social contact and actual physical contact, and that playing games and watching games have been endemic and vital in human survival. 


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