The Year We Will Never Forget

(Editor’s Note: This article was a collaborative effort of the Liberty Christian Sports Marketing Class. It was researched, written, and edited by Cedric Anderson, Shameel Clarvrain, Rileigh Graham, Tyler Houk, Adonis House, Stephanie Jaquez, Tae’Shaun Menifield, Jaden Peete, Leonardo Perotto, Noah Price, Ariah Sharpe, Kaiden Shell, Madison Southerland, Abraham Tapia, Thinh Tran, and Aaron Woodyard)

Due to the worldwide pandemic, Covid-19, this year’s athletic season is like no other.  This season creates a lot of uncertainty, which worries a lot of athletes and coaches with a fear of not being able to carry on with the season. Whether it was quarantining the whole team, or maybe having to cancel or reschedule a game or practice last minute, there is a fear that what had happened to spring 2020 sports would happen to them. When talking to Senior, Tyra Ford from the Anderson High School Girl’s Basketball Team, she shared how she approached her season in relation to Covid. When asked if fear of having her season canceled affected the way she approached the game she responded, “Yes because of everything I really want to accomplish this year. I hope I can finish it.” There is trust in other teams, counties, and the overall state that everyone would take necessary precautions in order to help athletes all over to carry on with their season. For some, this is the last chance that they would ever play the game they grew up loving, additionally this may be for some their last chance to earn a scholarship to continue their academic and athletic career at the collegiate level.

Covid-19 is hurting everyone. If you haven’t been actually infected with the virus, you have been affected by it somehow. And student-athletes and schools and being affected badly. From canceling or postponing events, to having to tell friends and family they cannot come to games, everyone is affected by this. 

A researcher for this article, Aaron Woodyard, interviewed one of Liberty Christian’s student-athletes, Nick Bitar. He said, “We are making the best out of a difficult situation as a team and a school.” Also, Tae’Shaun Menifield interviewed Matt Martin, the athletic director at Knightstown High School. He asked him, “How difficult and challenging has this situation made your job as an athletic director?” Martin responded with, “This year has been very challenging on multiple levels – the first is letting those parents in the community know how important extracurriculars are to these students (not just athletics).  They NEED this, and the risk associated with these is far less than in the classroom because of numbers.  I understand the question ‘how can we not have in-person class, but have extra-curricular activities’ and the answer is simple – numbers. Scheduling and workers has been another task that has made my job difficult.  With all the various cancellations, reschedules, and changes, it has made me make sure even more that I am organized.”

Rileigh Graham, a junior at Liberty Christian School, interviewed Pendleton Heights Athletic Director Chad Smith to ask him about how he has approached this school year with his athletic program.

Rileigh Graham: What has been the biggest change for your job this year? 

Chad Smith: The biggest change is that I am finding myself in more of a medical/health role.  Every decision has to be made considering COVID-19 and the health and safety of our student-athletes, visiting athletes, and all spectators.  That has always been the top priority but COVID-19 has added another layer to the decision making process.  

RG: What has impacted your athletes the most? (seniors, coaches, and teams as a whole)  

CS: The uncertainty!  Our athletes never know if their scheduled game will take place or not.  They don’t know if they will be a close contact the next day and have to quarantine or if their teammate won’t be available due to COVID-19 related reasons.  It is challenging for coaches to prepare scouting reports and game plans 

RG: What’s been the hardest part for you to do as an AD?  

CS: Being flexible.  In general, I am a very disciplined person that likes everything on a schedule, and varying from that schedule is not an option.  Most that know me know that I never fly by the seat of my pants.  During this time we are living, that philosophy just isn’t possible.  Just like we ask our student-athletes to get better each day, I am making progress in being more flexible with each passing day.  

RG: What do you feel is the best option for your athletic program to remain safe while still having an athletic season? 

CS: Simple answer is to follow the medical professionals’ recommendations.  But, the world we live in is so politically divided.  It is disappointing to see that the example we are setting for our youth is that wearing masks automatically associates you with a political party.  If everyone would follow the recommendations we can still have a pretty successful competitive winter season.  We just keep stressing to our student-athletes that we want to continue to play so we will do everything recommended to make that happen.  

RG: Do you feel that the school has taken all precautions to safely deal with Covid-19 with keeping athletics in mind?  

CS: Absolutely.  At Pendleton Heights, we have adopted a school safety plan to follow.  It has been my job to make sure we can operate athletics within that safety plan.  Overall, our students, coaches, and parents have done a good job of trying to make sure that we can continue to play.   

As you can see, Covid-19 is affecting student-athletes, schools, and adminstrators all across the state of Indiana. Please mask up and social distance so they can continue to play!

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