With the Virginia High School League’s latest ruling that any decision on playing spring sports in the summer would be delayed until May, it leaves the door open for local coaches and athletes to salvage at least some part of the high school season.
However, the VHSL announced Tuesday that it would not recognize champions in any of the spring sports if an abbreviated summer season were to occur. Coupled with difficult logistics, competing priorities and the current outlook of the COVID-19 outbreak, some area coaches aren’t optimistic about a summer session happening at all.
“At this point, I guess we’re pretty much considering that our season is over,” Tunstall softball coach Caine DeVivi said.
DeVivi was thankful the VHSL didn’t rule out a summer season of sorts, but he’s skeptical about how well it would come together. For his own team, he said many of his players have paid for travel softball programs during the summer, and others may have summer vacations planned with families.
“The likelihood of being able to do it even if the VHSL says you can do it, the percentages are against you,” he said. “I think it’s going to be difficult for high school teams to get their high school kids together and all committed for something [like that].”
Cassidy Scarce, one of three seniors on Tunstall’s softball team, is mentally preparing to believe she’s played the last game of her career already.
“It’s honestly really upsetting because I’ve been playing ball since I was, like, 5,” Scarce said, “and my senior year was really a year I was looking forward to, and it’s disappointing I don’t get to play.
“I never expected this to happen, so when it happened I was kind of shocked. It still really doesn’t seem real.”
If the summer details could be worked out, Dan River baseball coach Jacob Waller said he’d support a shortened season.
“If there’s an opportunity to get out there and play, I think it’s definitely a good choice just because you do give them at least a little bit of closure and one last time to get out with their friends,” Waller said. “For some of these guys, it might be the last time they get to play organized baseball in their lives, so you’d hate to see someone lose that opportunity.”
Like DeVivi, longtime George Washington High School boys track and field coach Robert Marshall isn’t holding out much hope for a summer season either.
“The athletes won’t be in condition to do this, not really,” he said. “I know we went through a good indoor season, but I don’t see how it will work.
“This virus is gonna have to come to a head real soon in order for us to do that, I think. From what everybody’s telling us, listening to all the medical people talking about it, they’re saying it’s just getting started.”
Marshall also said area track and field athletes might be committed to summer AAU programs that start in early June. Without a VHSL championship to work toward, Marshall wouldn’t be surprised to see athletes opt instead for the AAU season to have more meaningful competition.
“I don’t see the summer thing working,” Marshall said, “but if it does, it does, and if we can get some kids out there to do it, I’m sure we’ll have fun out doing it.”
As far as GW track and field is concerned, Marshall was looking forward to this season because he was finally starting to see more participation in the sport.
“Our participation had dropped off pretty much, but now we had numbers out there again and there’s no competition for them,” Marshall said. “I’m disappointed, bottom line, I’m disappointed we won’t be able to have our season.”
Dan River softball coach Ryan Scolpini was hoping his team could build on last season’s visit to the state tournament. He called this year’s group “the best team we’ve ever had on paper.”
“We got a team that could compete for a state title this year, and to have that taken away from you before it ever started, it’s disappointing,” Scolpini said. “We understand obviously with everything going on that sports are a secondary thing, but it’s still a disappointment.”
Lindsay Cook, a senior right fielder and pitcher for Dan River, said the decision to cancel the season has hit her and the Wildcats’ other two seniors — Journey Clark and Heather Holt — particularly hard.
“It was like our whole softball careers were over just out of nowhere,” she said.
Cook’s older sister, Casey, was one of several seniors on Averett’s softball team to have their season end abruptly, as well.
“It’s been really hard because me and Casey have grown up playing softball our whole lives, and this was the last year we were ever playing,” she said. “It’s really hard on me and Casey, but I think it’s even harder on our parents watching us.”
Cook was uncertain about what a shortened summer season may look like if it’s even possible, but without any concrete plans to play softball in the future, she said she’d definitely consider playing if she were permitted.
“I feel like having it during the summer isn’t gonna be the same as a regular season, but then again, if it’s the last chance I get to play, obviously I’m gonna take it,” she said.
Tyler Gammon, of Dan River baseball, also remains hopeful that some sort of summer arrangement can be made.
“It would be a great opportunity, at least to have my senior year and get that senior night,” he said. “A lot of us have looked forward to that senior night in baseball for all of our high school careers. I think everybody on the team would be more than willing to take that opportunity to play ball in the summer.”
Gammon plans to attend Liberty University in the fall and be a walk-on for the baseball team. Until then, he’s keeping a consistent workout regimen, but he admits it has been “a big change” to not have baseball season to look forward to.
“It’s not only affecting me, it’s affecting all of our families as well. They loved to come watch us play,” Gammon said. “But honestly the biggest difference isn’t really the baseball aspect. For seniors, it’s the school aspect — not being able to walk the halls again, not being able to see our friends that much anymore.”
George Washington senior Ethan Stephens, who has signed to play baseball at Averett, said he is also working out independently but admits that it doesn’t compare to being with his teammates.
“I’d say I’m definitely going to miss baseball and all the long bus rides and post-game meals together,” Stephens wrote in an email. “Those are something I was looking forward to during this season, but I know that I will be able to experience many more but on the next level. As for high school in general, I’m going to miss my friends, teachers and all the memories I made during my time at GW.”