Before things could get going, they were taken away. That is now the new normal that spring sports athletes, coaches, and fans are now living with following Gov. Kim Reynolds’ announcement Friday, April 17 to close schools through the end of the year.
Subsequently, both the IGHSAU and the IHSAA followed by canceling the 2020 spring sports season. It was a day that hit everyone hard including the coaches who watched their student-athletes’ season come to an abrupt close.
“Your heart goes out to these individuals,” began ADM head boys track coach Jesse Hunt. “They put in a lot of work leading up to the season and to have it cut like that is tough. When you don’t see the fruits of your labor, it can be unsettling. There’s a finality to all our athletic careers and when you don’t get to experience all of it, you kind of feel cheated. “
While the impact of the decision was devastating for the athletes, the coaches felt the devastation as well. Being around Waukee athletics for several years, Warrior head girls track coach Matt Pries also knows the work his athletes have put in. His squad was looking to set a mark few have ever seen before with a fourth-straight team state title but the end to the 2020 campaign delivered a sting that may never be forgotten.
“I was heartbroken, crushed,” began Pries. “Not just for track and field, but for all students, teachers, staff members, parents. It was a gut punch. Even though it was something that we all sort of knew could happen, hearing that it was done was really hard. We had also heard from a podcast with Union and Association leadership that there had been something of a contingency plan if school was canceled, but this ruled that out, so that added to the heartbreak.”
There’s no denying the toll it’s taken on the high school spring sports world in Iowa. For several athletes, this was their last chance to don a high school uniform or to wave at the home crowd after a big victory. For several teams across different sports, the sting of no season digs deeper given all the expectations of a potential state-bound season. That includes the Dallas Center-Grimes girls soccer team.
The Fillies were coming off a second consecutive state tournament-bound season not to mention a third trip to the Cownie Soccer Complex in the past five seasons. The potential of what could be only adds to what will be a tough pill to swallow for weeks and months to come. In the end, however, as head coach Dan James echoed along with all other spring coaches, the move to shut down the season was the right one.
“You try to prepare yourself for it, but I don’t know if you really can,” said James. “My first thought was that it can’t be happening but then at the same time, it’s what’s best for everybody. It was the toughest day for me as a coach in my 20 years of coaching.”
Now what follows is wading through even more uncharted waters. The cancellation of the season is something never before seen, let alone experienced by athletes and coaches. Going forward will be just as unprecedented as the end of the season itself but as Waukee boys head soccer coach Carlos Acebey mentioned, there’s still work that can be done.
“We’re really going off of a script that’s never been written,” Acebey said. “Right now we’re continuing by meeting with the kids with Zoom and by giving them activities to keep them sharp. Keeping up a good routine is important so that they don’t fall into bad habits or thinking negatively about what’s happening around them. It’s a challenging time for everyone and we also want them to know they’re not in this alone.”
The Warrior boys soccer team themselves were seeking a third straight Class 3A title and fifth state title overall. It’s been a tough road for all spring sports but that very mindset of continuing to march on is a strong message that can be heard from every spring sports coach, regardless of the sport.
“It’s tough right now but things will get back to normal at some point and we have to be ready,” said Van Meter girls golf coach Mike Linde shortly after the season was initially postponed.
For right now, the sting of a canceled season is at the forefront of nearly every athlete and coach but as DC-G head boys track coach Jordan Sump mentioned, there’s something far greater at work to think about.
“It’s something that does sting but part of my message to the kids was to realize that there is a bigger picture going on here,” said Sump. “It’s a weird thing to put into perspective but this is also a chance to rise above it and show what type of character these athletes have. We’re not defined by what happened or what happens on the track.”