Marilyn Scurlock was getting her Alexander High School softball team ready for the season, set to begin on March 28.
“We had practiced, I think, on Monday and Tuesday,” Scurlock recalled over the phone, “and then Wednesday I got a call from my athletic director.”
The day was March 11, the day the NBA suspended the rest of its season. Two days earlier, Ohio State University announced its decision to pivot instruction online. Hours before that, Gov. Mike DeWine alerted Ohioans that the state had its first three cases of COVID-19.
For many in the state of Ohio, these decisions were a wake-up call: this is serious.
“From that day on, I could not have practice,” Scurlock said.
The next day, Gov. DeWine closed all K-12 schools, public and private, statewide. That day, March 12, the Ohio High School Athletic Association postponed its winter tournaments, which were later cancelled. On March 13, OHSAA implemented a mandatory no-contact period for all sports, effectively banning any organized team practices or workouts, until April 5. Less than three weeks later, that was extended until May 1.
“Every time it gets moved back, I personally really hate it,” Eric Brown, head coach at Federal Hocking High School, said over the phone.
Brown, in his second year at the helm of the Lady Lancers softball program, said he thought this was the year to put an end to his team’s “perennial loser” status, in his words.
“We’ve worked pretty much year-round,” Brown said. “I know we would’ve had easily the school’s first winning season.”
Scurlock, too, said she was optimistic about how her team would finish.
“We won the league two years ago,” Scurlock said. “We definitely were the team to beat this year.”
Around the same timeframe, the NCAA cancelled its spring sports seasons. It recently announced the decision to give student-athletes an extra year of eligibility. Seniors who had seen their final year get stripped away got it right back. Coaches who saw championship potential get to start fresh next year with essentially the same roster.
High schools don’t have the same luxury. Seniors are still graduating and moving onto college. For some, it means the end of their athletic career.
“I really looked forward to my senior year with girls that I’ve been playing softball with since I could walk,” Halie Miller, Alexander’s lone senior, said in a phone interview. Miller plans to continue her softball career next year at Ohio University-Chillicothe.
“I have been playing sports since I’ve been five years old. Sports has been something that my life revolves around,” she said. “I’m not going to be able to have senior night. I’m not going to be able to play on the field for the last time. Those are feelings and memories that I won’t get back.”
Federal Hocking’s team has no seniors, but their players are still mourning the loss of the season.
“Last season … is when my knee problems really started up,” Samantha Brown, a sophomore at Federal Hocking and daughter of head coach Eric Brown, said. Brown said she only played half the season last year.
“Last year I missed half the season, this year I’ll miss probably the whole season,” the younger Brown said. “Next season I’ll be probably the most excited I’ve ever been to play.”
In Ohio, the spring sports season hasn’t been cancelled – yet. OHSAA, following Gov. DeWine’s current recommendations, has put out a tentative schedule for the baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis and track & field seasons to begin on May 4.
Most are doubtful that the season will be played at all.
“I have this one little tiny glimmer of hope,” Scurlock said. “I’m hopeful, but I will not be at all surprised if they cancel the season.”