Coaches reflect on canceling of Ohio high school spring sports

By Jose Nogueras -

Chad Spencer, Shawnee’s head baseball coach, never wanted to see this day arrive.

Columbus Grove head softball coach Travis Gallmeier called it a sad day.

In a release Tuesday, the Ohio High School Athletic Association informed member schools Monday that spring sports are now canceled, as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced earlier in the day that school facilities will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year due to the coronavirus COVID-19

OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass sent the memo to school administrators following DeWine’s press conference. For weeks, the OHSAA has communicated with schools that spring sports would be canceled if school facilities were closed. In addition to facilities not being opened, it would be impossible to ensure the health and safety of all individuals and support personnel involved in practices and contests at all member schools.

“As we have stated in our previous communications, today’s announcement by Gov. DeWine to close schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year also will now result in the cancellation of OHSAA-sponsored spring sports seasons including tournaments,” Snodgrass wrote Monday.

The OHSAA will continue to communicate throughout the spring and summer regarding any adjustments to OHSAA off-season regulations, academic eligibility standards, sports medicine updates and more.

“Being a member of the state coach’s board we have been monitoring this closely with the OHSAA,” Spencer said. “In our minds we thought it might happen but in our hearts we hoped it wouldn’t and until that final ax fell yesterday you are still retaining hope for your season and for your kids.”

Spencer added that it has been an emotional journey on a lot of different fronts and to finally have to break the news to his players was difficult.

“It affects our kids pretty deeply,” Spencer said. “There are a lot of kids that wait all year to play spring sports and they don’t get a chance to do that. That is pretty frustrating and having to communicate that news to your team is difficult.”

Gallmeier also expected this but it didn’t make it any easier.

“I think some hope was given when they released the schedules for the different sports and that gave us some hope with a contingency plan in place but without knowing the future of schools and I think a lot of people thought they were going to be closed ,” Gallmeier said. “It was a sad day.”

Because of social distancing Spencer had to break the news to his players via social media and that added to frustration because of the close relationship between players and coaches.

“I do know how that last practice felt with the impending doom and that meeting wasn’t fun,” Spencer said.

Breaking the news to seniors is also difficult and Spencer and Gallmeier found it extremely emotional to have to tell them of the cancellation of the season.

“I was in communication to lose this aspect of their senior year,” Spencer said. “I talked to a friend of mine coaching at a different school and he has eight seniors so you can imagine almost an entire squad of seniors who have worked for this moment to kind of to get to the pinnacle of your high school career and that is taken away from you.”

Gallmeier admits he had not seen Monday night that DeWine had made the announcement but was soon flooded with texts and messages from his players asking if it was true.

“I was kind of thrown off by it all,” Gallmeier said. “It was tough. The seniors asked, ‘is it really canceled’ and I responded I am guessing it is because the OHSAA has stated this and they probably read it online. I reached out to them and told them the bad news and was saddened to be the messenger of this. Sorry they didn’t get to play out their senior season and they were upset about it.”

Spencer, who is the ACME commissioner, said the board has approved for any seniors to play this year if they so desire. Registration is open for ACME and Junior ACME and tournament play will be backed up one week.

“We are just trying to scramble for ideas to be reactive in a positive way,” Spencer said

Spencer reiterates that ACME will be played based on the directives from the governor.

“It s the same thing with spring ball. You just don’t know,” Spencer said. “Last week we spent the week reorganizing the entire spring schedules in case the state would grant us an extension so we did the spring schedule twice and now we have scrapped that and now we are re-doing the ACME schedules in hopes that in June we can get on the fields. We don’t want to promise anything because we are all reacting to the mandates that the rest of the culture is. It is frustrating.”

Although seniors are greatly affected, Spencer adds that juniors looking to play at the next level are also affected because they lose a season when most colleges are looking at players during this time.

“Think about this if you are a junior right on the cusp of maybe this was your breakthrough year because most kids are recruited by the time they are juniors and these kids don’t get a chance to display their growth or their talent,” Spencer said. “What does that do for them. It sets all these kids back developmentally a year.”

While baseball seniors may get one last shot on the diamond, softball players do not have as many options unless they are with a traveling squad or other entity.

Spencer added that he doesn’t like to use the word devastating because he understands that individuals are struggling financially or physically dealing with the virus but also said this is tough on these athletes.

“This is a time that we have never been in our lifetime,” Gallmeier said. “I see the governor canceling a lot of these summer things.”

Snodgrass also addressed the summer and start of fall sports in the interview.

“July is a very physical month for our student-athletes entering fall sports, so we have already started looking at, if this continues through the summer, we’ll have the potential of having a lot of kids who haven’t had the physical activity that they would normally have going into a fall season. So for the health and safety of everyone, we have to look at the acclimation periods going into the fall, if that happens. We have to be prepared for that. We’re also talking about that, if this does go through the summer, what is the likelihood that a student can get in to get a physical (annual medical exam). We have a sport medicine advisory group that is looking at that. They are looking at all aspects such as whether artificial surfaces need to be treated. We are relying on the advice of experts in our decision making.

By Jose Nogueras

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