Chatham’s athletic directors plug along in uncertain times due to COVID-19

Posted 4/17/20

Maybe it was purely coincidental, but driving by one of the local schools the other day the radio began playing Don Henley’s song “Boys of Summer,” which begins with the lyrics “Nobody’s on …

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Chatham’s athletic directors plug along in uncertain times due to COVID-19

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Maybe it was purely coincidental, but driving by one of the local schools the other day the radio began playing Don Henley’s song “Boys of Summer,” which begins with the lyrics “Nobody’s on the road, nobody’s on the beach, I feel it in the air, the summer’s out of reach, empty lake, empty streets, the sun goes down alone…”

While the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic has not caused such dire conditions yet in our daily lives, the lyrics brought to mind the void we are witnessing on high school playing fields and courts as spring athletic events — including baseball, softball, men’s golf and tennis, track and field, women’s soccer and lacrosse — have been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

Despite coaches and athletes alike left wondering how their particular seasons would have played out, much work continues to be performed behind the scenes by area athletic directors, who are tasked with keeping facilities in “ready-to-go” shape as they await word that conditions are favorable for the resumption of sporting activities. At the same time they don’t want to overlook the contributions of seniors and how scholarship potentials have been affected by the pandemic.

“Right now I’m just waiting to hear what the state says in terms of resuming the spring season” said Cameron Vernon, Northwood High School’s co-athletic director. “While we continue to maintain facilities and remain optimistic we can start back up at some point, we are also preparing for the worst case scenario. In the meantime, we are currently brainstorming ways to honor our senior spring student-athletes. We typically hold a ‘Senior Night,’ but if that can’t take place our coaching staff has been floating around alternative ideas.”

Jordan-Matthews High School Athletic Director Josh Harris said he felt similarly, “holding out hope” that play would resume eventually.

“Maintaining fields for play is the largest concern at the present time, making sure that if we do get word we can resume sport activities our athletes have the best possible conditions to hit the ground running,” Harris said. “I have also challenged our coaches to keep in contact with our athletes and encourage them to stay active in the event we can take to the field again in the near future. At the same time, I have tried to take advantage of this slow period to complete our fall and winter schedules while thinking about transitioning to summer and the best way to tidy up if our spring seasons are finished. Really, we’re all just taking things day-by-day.”

Over at Chatham Charter High School, Athletic Director Clint Fields noted at this time he is keeping the fields mowed and sprayed so they will be ready when things return to normal while he is working on sports schedules for next year. At Chatham Central High School, Athletic Director Bob Pegram said coaches are in regular contact with their players.

“Since coaches cannot hold practices, meetings, scrimmages, etc. I believe our athletes will need a week or two to get back to being game-ready,” said Pegram. “Hopefully they are continuing to work out on their own.”

A typical highlight of the spring sports season is signing day, where juniors and seniors can announce their intentions to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level. The county’s athletic directors say they’re trying to find ways to still honor those students.

“During the fall we were able to host a ‘Signing Day’ for the early signing period,” Vernon said, “and while the pandemic is making it challenging to do the same for the spring signing period, we are confident we will find a solution to honor these student-athletes.”

Fields pointed to one athlete in particular who was hoping to use this spring season to make a decision.

“Connor Murphy was depending upon this season to weigh his options about playing at the next level or going to UNC,” he said. “He has been recruited by some D3 schools but was hoping to have a good spring to see what was out there for him.”

Another potential logistical hiccup is rescheduling games that have so far been postponed due to COVID-19. Pegram said it might be near impossible.

“Speaking with (baseball) coach Brett Walden the other day, he told me, ‘We only have to reschedule 18 games so far,’” he said. “We both kind of chuckled, as I was thinking how hard it was to reschedule rainouts for one or two games and can’t imagine rescheduling 18 games.”

But most of all at this point, Harris said, seniors are missing out on what would be their final games in uniform for their high schools. It’s just one of the ways COVID-19 has affected people at every level.

“I hurt for our seniors” Harris said. “It’s just a time they don’t get to showcase all the hard work they’ve put forth at no fault of their own. More than that, the hardest pill for them to swallow is the memories they are missing out on with the time they don’t get to spend competing and enjoying playing with their teammates. High school seniors are getting the short end of the stick in the athletic landscape.”


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