Our games are facing a hard reality check

Sports have, alongside all the schools in the county, been closed down until further notice.

Ryan Sutton, the spokesman for the central office, spoke on it:

“Until further notice, all sports in Anderson County have been canceled, as well as all field trips for the remainder of the year. That’s just how it is right now.”

The TSSAA was forced to cancel the girls’ state basketball tournament after the semifinals, leaving the ultimate question of who will walk away with the state tournament up in the air. The state boys’ tournament that was supposed to take place this week was canceled.

The Oak Ridge High School boys basketball team may look back at the 2019-2020 season and wonder, “What if ...”

The Wildcats made the state tournamnet after a dramatic win at powerhouse Science Hill in the Sub-State. Ryan Gillespie, the spokesman for the TSSAA, said that it’s hard for everyone involved. “Obviously it affects schools and coaches and athletes and everyone else,” he said.

Luckily for district play, the TSSAA doesn’t have rules requiring district play to qualify for the post-season for spring sports, meaning that athletes and schools can still qualify for the post-season even if the rest of the district play is canceled. That being said, that assumes there will be a post-season, and it leaves the question of district championships up in the air.

“There’s no requirements to play any regular season games,” Gillespie said. “They can qualify for the post season with what they’ve done already, and how a district wants to determine a seed for their district, that is entirely up to the district itself. Obviously a lot of them will be looking for alternative plans, but really it doesn’t matter to us how they choose to formulate those standings or seedings.”

Still, Gillespie expects that schools will be anxious about getting their kids back out to play as soon as is safe.

Clinton High School athletic director, Brad Collette, says right now safety is the main concern.

“Everybody has kind of been at a loss at what to do, but right now we’re shut down just to stay safe. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not just us that’s shut down. It’s all over the country people are dealing with this.”

Collette says the schools haven’t given their athletes any kind of directive about exercising or routines to keep them in shape, leaving them to their individual devices instead.

“Not all of our kids have the luxury of being able to go to a gym, so hopefully they’ll try and do the best they can and stay healthy. That’s what we’re the most worried about is keeping everyone healthy through all of this mess. Stay home and stay healthy..

“You hate it for the kids and the coaches who have all worked so hard. But at this point with all the unknowns, we have to do what’s best for everyone and best for the kids.”

With the TSSAA leaving the ultimate decisions up to the individual districts, Collette said he wishes there was more direction at the state level for everyone to operate on the same page.

“I really wish that someone at the state level would just do something across the board,” Gillespie said. “It would make things so much easier for everyone involved. I think something should come from the state at some point saying, ‘This is what we’re going to do across the [state] until this date and we’ll reevaluate after that.’ It just seems like it would make everyone’s life so much simpler. I’ve been in high school sports for 20 years and this is a first for me.”

And therein lies the problem: This is a first for everyone. There’s not a handbook for this, not a precedent to be followed, and that’s horrifying.

Even beyond just sports, it’s not known when things will return to any kind of normalcy or even what that new normalcy will look like.