Park coaches react to spring sports postponement

Ryan Peerboom — Enterprise Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Sports are filled with routines. Athletes have rituals, practices have structures and coaches have game plans. But after the MHSA’s decision to suspend spring sports until at least April 13 due to the coronavirus, there’s no playbook moving forward. 

Spring sports had already begun last week for high schools around the state of Montana. So the suspension brings them to a halt before they can really get going.

Ben Hahn, the track and field coach at Park High, said he wasn’t shocked by the news.

“I know that our schools district and the state have been watching this very closely, and I think that anybody who was watching it really close, if you look around the rest of the world, probably saw something like this coming,” Hahn said.

Park tennis coach Kandy Chain described her feelings when she heard the announcement.

“I think it’s like numbing,” Chain said. “You’re just numb right now. I’m sure the athletes feel the same way.”

Park softball coach Julie Higgs said she was just getting a feel for her new players, which is especially important with a new co-op this year with Big Timber softball players.

“We hadn’t even really finished a tryout yet,” Higgs said, “just seeing where some of the girls were and some of the new girls that came in, the new freshman.”

Now, teams will have to wait in uncertainty, hoping they can resume practices when the MHSA reevaluates the suspension on April 13. If they do resume, teams will need to hold only five practices before competition as opposed to the usual 10. In the meantime, athletes will have to find a way to be ready when that time comes. 

For track, Hahn said the distance runners should have an easier time than others keeping in shape.

“Our distance runners have their whole season planned,” he said. “So they can actually keep training and not miss a beat. I see the distance (runners) able to handle that the best.”

In softball, Higgs said she trusts her players to take initiative to remain ready for the season to continue.

“I have all kinds of plans, if they want information from me they can get it,” she said. “I’m trusting them to do it on their own, like play catch with your dad or play catch with your mom. Pitchers especially, start throwing, start doing wrist snaps, that kind of stuff.”

Chain said that tennis players can put into action safe practices for social distancing and still play tennis.

“The courts are open, there’s nothing to stop them from going out there,” she said. “The good thing about tennis is that you’re more than 6 feet apart.”

Nobody knows how schedules for the games will be impacted if the teams are allowed to return to competition. Higgs expects the softball schedule to be high-paced if they continue. 

“They haven’t really told us yet, but I think they would try to reschedule what they could,” she said. “It’s just going to pack a lot of games into a short timeframe.”

Hahn said he hopes they can restart in time for an invitational in Laurel on April 18. But Hahn, as well as the other coaches, are prepared for the worst. 

“I’m a track guy, I want to have track,” he said. “But if they can cancel March Madness and they can cancel the NBA and some of these types of events, high school sports is a drop in the bucket compared to some of those.”