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Opinion: Don't minimize the angst of high school seniors likely finished with careers
While trying to eradicate coronavirus comes first, teenagers might not be equipped to deal with frustration of an abrupt end to season
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North Hall's Wes Tadman delivers a pitch during a game against Greater Atlanta Christian on Friday, March 13 at Lynn Cottrell Field. - photo by Nathan Berg

If you see a high school senior who plays spring sports, in normal times, give them a word of encouragement (from a safe distance). They’ve had to learn before their time how truly unfair life can be. 

It’s a time when leaves are blooming, weather’s warming and these athletes of the tail end of the school year should just be hitting their stride.

Except, not in 2020. Sports are definitely not exempt from coronavirus.

This will likely be the first time a sports season will be cancelled since the GHSA started crowning a boys basketball champion in 1922, according to its archives.

The Johnson boys soccer (8-0) program, ranked No. 1 nationally by the United Soccer Coaches Association’s all-classification poll, went into the break rolling for first-year coach Frank Zamora. The 2018 state champions opportunity to win it all again on the field seems slim, right now.

With everyone trying to stem the tide of the coronavirus, that means games have to take a backseat. 

The last date high school athletes were allowed to compete, March 13, was a big one for Class 4A’s top-ranked Flowery Branch baseball program as it moved to 2-0 in region play with a clear path to the 7-4A championship over the final six weeks of the region season.

On the other end of Hall county, now almost three weeks since high school sports were halted, sixth-ranked North Hall (12-4) had completed a series win against Greater Atlanta Christian in Region 7-3A play, one that the Trojans in the early driver’s seat for the region championship. 

It now seems like a lifetime ago when the COVID-19 became the most important part of daily life, shutting down schools and leading to millions of unemployment claims. 

While the real world is most important, and we should all be practicing social distancing, we should also take time to realize that these kids in their final year of high school are experiencing added heartache of their own. 

With schools out until at least April 24, and Gov. Brian Kemp indiciating a decision will likely come before then about the resumption of the school year, don’t forget a lot of kids are worried if they’ve played their final baseball game, tennis match, golf meet, soccer match or competed in their final track and field event. 

For many kids, an end to their season will be a wrap on their playing careers, if the people in decision-making positions deem it too risky to put kids and teachers back on campus. 

Nobody is questioning that the right decision to cease sports was made while medical professionals try to get a grasp on what could potentially be a disease with devastating impacts.

Saving lives and preserving health is far more important than sports. 

However, we should also understand that 16, 17 and 18 year olds are not mentally equipped to have the games they love put on hold while we fight an invisible enemy. 

Credit should be given from President Trump all the way down to the local level as every effort is made to curtail COVID-19. Nobody enjoys being self quarantined, but it’s what we have to do for the good of humanity.

Like many others, I’d rather be out at the ballfield watching some of the best high school baseball in the state. 

Those three-game playoff series for high school baseball in the spring are some of the best sport action available. You don’t even have to be connected to the school to enjoy a day out at the ballpark.

Even if the season were to miraculously resume later in April, it’s very unclear how the season would go for each sport. Would spring sports teams vacate the games missed and pick up right where they left off? By that point, the regular season for soccer should already by wrapped up. 

In baseball, if the season picks up, there would be 6-8 region games remaining for most teams. 

That would probably be an adequate amount of games to determine playoff qualifiers, but after a month without playing, who would be in game shape without being granted a few exhibition outings?

Could the end of the regular season be pushed back and install a smaller playoff bracket?

Certainly could be a possibility. 

However, these conversations only matter if we have high school sports again this spring. 

First, we have to get this disease COVID-19 under control. 

Then state lawmakers, the GHSA and coaches could hammer out the details of resuming high school athletics.

Understanding the unfortunate aspect of the coronavirus might be something adults can fully process, but could be infuriating to 16-18 year olds.

Give those kids a big hug, when it’s safe again. We’re all in this together.

Bill Murphy is sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at bmurphy@gainesvilletimes.com or on Twitter @Bill_Murphy313.

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