AA

A sign and a lock on the fence at Mastandrea Stadium on the campus of Athens Academy signal the closure of all baseball facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Georgia High School Association Executive Director Dr. Robin Hines is a sports fan. He’s also an optimist.

In the height of COVID-19 pandemic, Hines has hope.

The GHSA announced last week that it would continue its suspension to April 24. After the initial suspension of spring sports on March 12 the GHSA was expected to meet on Friday to discuss options for the remainder of the 2020 spring sports calendar.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp beat them to the punch and deemed the meeting moot by extending his order to cease face-to-face school activities until at least April 24. Many, including Hines saw the announcement coming and felt it appropriate.

By mid week the state of Georgia’s coronavirus case total has ballooned to over 4,000.

Bleak be the tone around the state. Even still, Hines and the GHSA have been talking about possible outcomes for the gutted spring sport season.

If schools open, sports will resume and whether it be a shortened one or one that extends far longer than it was expected to the student-athletes of Georgia will get their opportunities.

Should things resume the GHSA will look at keeping the state championship locations intact but could be forced to move title rounds to home fields of schools based on availability of the venues whenever COVID-19 has seen its retreat.

“I hope that we get on the other side of that curve quickly just for the well-being of our society,” Hines said. “If we reach a point where schools could open we would do everything that we could do to have some type of abbreviated season and abbreviated championships. That would be our first goal that we would like to see happen. That goes on down to it being after the school year ends where it’s safe to do things again to allow schools to play games and have a senior night.”

There is a dark reality. It’s one many have to begin considering each time there is a stitch added to ceasefire. Hines isn’t ready to go that far just yet. If there’s a chance that schools can open in time, the hope for a conclusion to the season will remain.

“The worst case scenario would be to cancel the spring season,” Hines said. “But here at the Georgia School Association I’m not prepared to do that now... I think if we have an opportunity to play, I think our kids deserve that. Even if we go a little while into the summertime to get some play in there, we would certainly consider that. We’re not saying that would happen because there is a lot things that need to be thought about.”

Should the spring season be canceled the eyes would then begin to shift toward the fall where football, softball, volleyball and cross-country await with just as much uncertainty and angst as their spring counterparts.

Hines admits the thought of worry toward the fall calendar has been a fleeting thought since two weeks ago when the original suspension of play was called for.

“Whoever dreamed that we would be where we are right now,” Hines said. “I hope and I pray that we get in front of this thing. There will be more difficult decisions to be made down the road should it keep going. This total speculation on my part, but I do worry about that (fall sports).”

For Oconee County High School head football coach Travis Noland, the offseason isn’t the one he envisioned when the Warriors exited the Georgia State Stadium locker rooms after their Class 4A state championship game loss.

Spring practices would normally be in the process of being planned in conjunction with afternoon weight room sessions with the infant stages of the 2020 edition of the Warriors. Instead, Noland sits home wondering how his players are doing and what comes next in terms of preparation for the next season that could never come.

“People don’t understand how much time, energy and effort goes into a football season as far as the offseason goes,” Noland said. “I think whether you’re in the NFL, college football or high school football we’re all dealing with the same issue. It’s not like there’s a certain group that’s getting an advantage over another group. I think coaches have to evaluate where we are and the time frame that we have. Coaches are very cognizant of the well being of their players and they’re going to take whatever our starting point is. They’ll adjust how and what we do based on the time that’s allotted by our governing body.”

Noland believes in the power of positivity. He’s taking the approach that things will improve in the battle with COVID-19 and there will be football on the crisp Friday nights of the coming fall.

“We’re in a very difficult time with a lot of uncertainty,” Noland said. “I’ve always believed in the power of suggestion so I’m not even letting myself go there.”

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