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Stroud: Looking at a way forward for CHSAA to salvage spring sports

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

We have to preface everything we think or say these days with the reality that it simply may not be possible to return to normal activities anytime soon amid a global pandemic.

That said, when it comes to the current crack in the door left by the latest Colorado High School Activities Association announcement that spring sports and activities remain suspended until April 30, I offer a few thoughts.

Sure, I might be pitching just a bit high and outside with this. I was never much of a pitcher anyway.

But if there’s a way to salvage an abbreviated season come May, it’s worth chasing that tempting pitch — for the sake of Colorado’s graduating seniors — even if it is a little outside the box.

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I think back to my own senior year many years ago, and how that spring track season shaped my life.

I might be a different person if I didn’t have that chance to run a personal-best 4:41 in the 1600 meters to help carry my team to the district championship.

I likely would have cracked the elusive 10-minute barrier in the 3200, had I not “taken one for the team” and also been an integral part of our 4×800 relay team’s sub-8:15 season-best.

And, 10:15 in the open 3200 isn’t shabby, especially when it earns you a nice medal to put in the trophy case.

It’s moments like those that last a lifetime.

For this year’s seniors, though, that small glimmer of hope to have their own shining moments seems to be fading with each passing day.

These next couple weeks will likely tell us if it’s safe to go back outside and play this May. But if there’s a sports season where it can be done in a responsibly socially-distanced way, it’s spring.

If we were talking about fall football or basketball during the winter season, it’s a non-starter to try to carry on without the risk of close personal contact contributing to the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

But Colorado’s spring sports — boys baseball, swimming and lacrosse, co-ed track and field, and, for the girls, soccer, lacrosse, golf and tennis — by their very nature do not involve a lot of contact.

CHSAA officials have not been forthcoming about what exactly they’re thinking in terms of the potential for an abbreviated spring sports season. Again, it may not be possible.

But, let’s at least consider some possibilities.

What about a season limited to varsity-level play, and in the case of some sports even limited to juniors and seniors only?

Freshmen and sophomores should get their chance in future years, especially when it comes to individual sports such as track, tennis, swimming and golf.

Team sports may very well require a full slate of players at all grade levels in order to field a team.

For track and field, though, by limiting participation to juniors and seniors, heats for the track events could easily be limited in size.

As college and professional sports are contemplating, spectator viewing could also be limited.

Soccer and lacrosse could be tricky, because there can be significant player contact at times, especially around the goal. Perhaps modified temporary rules allowing only a certain number of offensive and defensive players in the vicinity of the goal — inside the 18 in the case of soccer — might take care of that.

Takes this whole “thinking outside the box” thing to another level, but that’s the whole purpose of this exercise, right?

As for the shortened length of the sports seasons, CHSAA may very well need to consider extending the playoffs into June to pull this off. Not ideal, but worth discussing, if they haven’t already.

Aside from sports, numerous non-athletic activities also were canceled or at least postponed as a result of the public-health related shutdowns.

For equally important activities such as speech, mock trial and music contests, perhaps the same innovative ideas that have gone into virtual learning could also be employed.

Is it all a big stretch? Maybe. Just trying to put myself in the shoes of these young athletes who one day might find better solutions to overwhelming global concerns.

John Stroud is managing editor for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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