Frustration abounds following West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s recent announcement to delay the winter sports seasons until March 1.
It’s the second such delay, with the reported recent statewide spike in COVID-19 being the reason, according to Justice.
Practices were pushed back to Jan. 11 initially, and now, its another month and a half.
Local basketball coaches and fans are also perplexed by Justice’s announcement to open schools by mid-January.
“It’s frustrating, especially for our kids and for everyone who wants to get started,” Chapmanville Regional High School boys’ basketball coach Brad Napier said. “I really don’t understand. I don’t see how you can justify going to school and having 400-500 kids in a building and you can’t have 15-20 kids in a gym playing basketball. It really doesn’t make much sense to me. The kids are going to be in school and will be around other kids in school. Basketball is a much smaller group. It’s counterproductive of what he (Justice) is trying to do in going back to school.”
Logan High School boys’ basketball coach Zach Green shared some of those same sentiments.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Green said. “It’s tough to understand and tough to explain to your kids.”
There was further anger when a viral video on social media surfaced, showed a New Year’s Eve party at the Greenbrier with hundreds of mostly mask-less and non-social distancing guests.
“Partygoers rang in the New Year last night at Governor Justice’s resort, with COVID protocols apparently optional,” said William Ihlenfeld on Twitter. “Meanwhile, the Governor won’t let high school sports begin until March 1. Kids continue to sacrifice while adults celebrate.”
Such inconsistencies have made things hard to understand.
“The inconsistencies have been the toughest things to grasp during all of this,” Green said. “We can take our kids and go to Walmart, go to the Greenbrier and go just about anywhere we want to go but they can’t play sports while every state around us is in mid-season already.”
Green said he’s been staying in contact with his players, some of which have been shooting hoops in the cold on area outside courts.
“We are in a group chat and we have been communicating through that,” Green said. “I still have a group of guys that are playing outside. They are staying active to the best of their ability but they are complaining that it’s getting really cold and they are not going to be able to continue to play outside much longer. They are hurt and down in the dumps and understandably.”
Initial plans are to play a condensed season of possibly 10 to 12 games, then continue with the scheduled April 6-10 state tournament.
However, that’s an optimistic goal.
There’s also a possibility the entire basketball season could get the ax, just as the 2020 spring sports season did.
“Unfortunately, that might be a reality,” Green said. “We hope not and we hope not for our seniors, who are preparing themselves to get ahead and really all my kids.”
New Chapmanville girls’ basketball coach Kristina Gore is also grappling with these inconsistencies.
“It was disappointing and confusing to hear the news from the governor’s press conference yesterday. It seems to me to be a contradiction from his stance on sports from back in the fall,” Gore said. “He said repeatedly if we couldn’t be in school, then we shouldn’t be playing sports. He’s now thrown the map away for elementary and middle schools, and made another tweak that allows high schools to be in session in the orange. So, my question is, if it’s now safe enough to be in school, why isn’t it safe enough to play sports?”
The COVID-19 vaccine could also come into play as it will be more widely given in the coming weeks and months.
“Are we buying time to get the vaccine distributed so that we may be able to make more money at the state tournament?” Gore said. “If that’s the case, if he can allocate CARES Act money meant for COVID relief to fix potholes then he should be able to write a check to the WVSSAC to make up for COVID related losses. It’s a difficult situation all the way around.”
Gore said the delay has been very rough on her players.
“It just breaks my heart for our players,” she said. “While we don’t have any seniors, they still only get four years to play high school sports. It’s truly a precious time in their lives and I hate that it’s being cut short. Regardless of our feelings, it’s a situation that we can’t control. We have to remain mentally tough as a team and be prepared when we have the opportunity to get back in the gym.”