When Massachusetts schools were forced to shut their doors due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, leaving students to remote learning, student-athletes saw their spring sports seasons put on pause. There was resulting concern as to whether or not there would be spring sports at all in 2020.
On Tuesday, April 21, Governor Charlie Baker announced the bad news many expected: Students will continue to learn at home for the remainder of the school year, taking away the spring season for so many student-athletes — the seniors, in particular.
“I think it’s just a disappointment,” Old Rochester athletic director Bill Tilden said. “I think everybody saw that this was probably coming down this way. We were all doing our best to fill out the schedules and I think there were a lot of people that really worked hard to make sure that we were ready to go when it started… It’s just a gut punch for everybody who’s put all this work in — for the kids and the adults.
“Kids should have a blast throughout their school career, not have all the greatest things… in the end of senior year. Well, obviously things can happen and stuff doesn’t work like that. So we need to learn to spread stuff out.”
In the world of high school athletics, junior year is also crucial for student-athletes looking to pursue a college playing career — perhaps for the spring athletes more than any others.
“If you’re a junior, this is hurting you hard, too,” Old Colony athletic director Matt Trahan said. “Because (recruiting) is based on stats, and it’s based on record and it’s based on what you did last year. And there’s a lot of ifs and buts right now. So I feel for them all.”
Tilden echoed a similar sentiment.
“(Our) junior class has some exceptional athletes in both track and in lacrosse, baseball, softball, that aren’t getting a look-at,” he said. “And especially junior boys, they’re not the same kid as they were as freshmen or sophomores. They’re going from boys to men and colleges are looking for those kids to offer them scholarships because they can’t wait and until next spring to take a look at these kids. They’ve already filled all their slots.
“I think those kids are the ones that are really missing out on future opportunities of possibly going off to these schools when they can’t show them what they can do.”
Like Tilden and other athletic directors across the state, Trahan has kept tabs on his schedule with his contemporaries and checked in with officials, too. But Old Colony’s athletic director had previously expressed that he wanted to do something for student-athletes in the event the spring sports season was canceled.
“I don’t want to wait too long because I think it loses its effect,” Trahan said. “We’ve got people we want to honor, things that we want to do. And really, if you wait until August or September, those kids are either now away at (college) or they’re off to work and whatnot. So I’m going to be spit-balling with my coaches and whatnot. And we’re going go to try to do something, I don’t know, maybe with a little bit of humor? Because I think everybody needs that right now, and we could be doing something via Zoom (video conference) or whatever it may be — that seems to be the platform everybody is using. But we’re definitely not going to let the spring go by, the year go by, without doing our due diligence.”
While Tilden and Trahan wish Baker’s decision had been different, they understand why the governor took the route he did.
“We can’t complain,” Trahan said. “I mean, I think we’re all upset. But God forbid anything happened to any of these kids that we’re talking about. I think keeping them safe and healthy is the number one priority. I really do appreciate — and I think a lot of people have liked the way Charlie Baker has done business. I think he’s been a good communicator. (He) definitely looked out for people’s best interests.”
By Nick Friar