Two Cents from the Franklin Mint: The Game Plan of Waiting

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Updated: April 30, 2020

By Jon Franklin:

On Friday, April 24, 2020 at approximately 2:00 pm, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) and the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) formally canceled all outstanding sporting events that had been previously postponed. The basketball state championship games and all spring sports were caught in the crossfire after Governor Roy Cooper canceled all in-house classroom activities.

Since the March 15th announcement from Governor Cooper and the NCHSAA / NCISAA that postponed all activities until May 15th, I began to see that all of the remaining athletic competitions were facing a very grim situation. Even if sports started the following day on Saturday, May 16th, there would be almost no time to acclimate the athletes to season form, play a modified season, and then play a modified form of state playoffs. Even the basketball state finalists would have scurried to find a way to return to top form, just to complete their quest for a state championship.

The problem with all of this was not figuring out how to stay in shape, how to learn electronically, receive e-mails of plays, or to balance all of that with all of the craziness we’ve seen in the news.

The problem was the WAIT.

To paraphrase the line used by the late Gloria Stuart (portraying Rose Dawson Calvert, the elder Rose) in the 1997 film “Titanic” – student-athletes, coaches, and fans had nothing to do but wait. Wait to play, wait to practice, wait for an absolution that would never come.”

My issues during this period of abeyance was that it appears that no guidance or direction was issued by the NCHSAA about any potential ideas on how to resume. While we all realize that the COVID-19 situation has been very fluid and ever changing, one would have thought that there would be been some hints about how these events could have resumed.

Nick Stevens, managing editor of HighSchoolOT.com, on the other hand, was very proactive in suggesting ideas on how the NCHSAA could resume activities once an order was issued or rescinded. Perhaps the NCHSAA administration could have utilized some of his plans to at least have people prepared.

Imagine if you’re head coach Allen Byrd and the players and assistant coaches making up the Cedar Ridge softball team. You’re poised for some great things. Last season, you won the Big Eight Conference championship, won two state playoff games, and ended the season to the eventual state champions in the third round. This season, you’re 3-1, batting a sterling .450 average, churning out a tremendous .711 slugging percentage, six of eleven recorded batters are averaging over .350, Takia Nichols has crushed five home runs in four games (one damaging the scoreboard), and a new scoreboard was installed.

Now enter the world of COVID-19, and all activities are suspended.

What is a student-athlete, coach, or an athletic director to do? You can’t play or practice, meetings now are by Face Time or Zoom, and any ideas of independent activities are shot due to governmental rules & regulations. So for now, it’s a wait and see situation to see if any future high school athletic competition will resume.

So how can a student-athlete use this period of inactivity to their advantage? Here’s a few ideas.

1) INSTRUCTION

Since the suspension of in-house scholastic instruction, online education has flourished. If all academics is now online, coaching can be performed the same way.

One tool that has helped athletes remain in shape is MaxPreps. This site, more known to finding out schedules, scores, and stats, has been a home to finding ways to stay in the groove from certified trainer Katerina Kountouris. Each workout also gives a link to Kountouris’ personal website where she offers encouragement as well as meal guides for proper nutrition. Best yet, it’s all free.

Another free coaching option is Class Central. This site offers tutorials in sports management, coaching, nutrition, and psychology.

I can’t speak for all student-athletes, but if I’m going stir-crazy in my house, I got to do something to keep myself occupied. What a better way to keep active that to learn ways to stay fit, eat clean, and even learn some things you didn’t know.

2) INSULATION

What I mean by this point is taking time off to let an athlete’s body heal, both mentally and physically. Think of this as a “reset button”.

With the amount of wear and tear young people are continually putting on their bodies, perhaps this break in the action could be exactly of what their doctors’ ordered.

In July 2019, ESPN published a scathing, two-part article detailing the weathering of youth in basketball resulting in catastrophic injuries. While not just related to basketball, many of these injuries are occurring at much younger ages to where their ability to do basic things are impacted – let alone acquire the scholarship to a fancy D1 school and making big bucks playing professional (insert sport).

The facts in this report told me what many already know: Student-Athletes are playing too much in a specific sport and are overworking their young bodies towards injury.

Back home in Marion, I remember watching kids as young as five play football. These players would play all the way up from youth league to middle school. As their freshman year at McDowell High approached, many didn’t want to play as they were tired of continually getting their heads beat in day after day.

I knew many of these athletes. When asked about why they stopped playing, the most common response I was given was that they had played so much football (or another specialized sport) to where they never knew what it was like to actually be a kid. So by the time they reached the ninth grade, they stopped playing competitive sports – all to become normal.

It’s ok to be a teenager. It’s ok to enjoy hanging out with friends, experience love, and overall take care of yourselves. If you have to take a break (whether forced or unforced), use it to your advantage. Sports will be back when you’re ready.

3) IMPROVEMENT

When I was a kid, my dad would always tell me, “If you get comfortable upon the stool of ‘Do Nothing’, will never be motivated to get up to walk on the path of ‘Do Something’.”

My father, as usual, was right. None of the previous two points actually mean anything if one is not willing to improve themselves.

So instead of playing video games, Tik Tok or Face Time with friends, or do whatever kids do these days, the time is yours to actually improve yourself – athletically and academically. While I don’t want to sound like I’m contradicting myself in saying, “Enjoy the break … Now get to work!”, but student-athletes have to have a restart point.

Imagine that school was able to resume and your sport was cranking back up, would you currently be in a position to be an asset to your team, or would you be a liability? The absurd amount of time off can be detrimental to an athlete, especially if they’re not staying in shape and are out of practice in their disciplines. But imagine if their time was managed wisely, how good can a team be full of prepared athletes?

As this period of athletic dormancy continues, the clock continues to tick down towards the next sports season. Despite the wait, every student-athlete has much work to do to make their team, and themselves better. What you do with the wait is your business. But use your waiting time wisely so you can be the best at what you do.

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