By: Garrett Mitchell
As South Carolina governor Henry McMaster ordered all state public schools close through the end of March, Woodruff spring sports teams have seen their seasons brought to a halt amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 virus, also known as novel Coronavirus.
Athletic programs statewide have been grounded along with in-person classes, with school districts across the Palmetto State switching to an e-learning format until it is deemed safe by health officials to return to class and to the athletic fields.
According to the South Carolina Department of Education, there are 1,250 public schools statewide that educate approximately 788,000 students led by 55,000 faculty members. Concern for students, student athletes and faculty, says Woodruff athletic director Michael Morris, led to the conscientious decision to shut down school and athletics at least for the next several weeks.
“Governor McMaster has been briefed by various health agencies and the health of our students and student athletes is our top priority,” said Morris. “Obviously, the best-case scenario is we will have a shortened season. The worst-case scenario would be that the season would be canceled. This is unprecedented so we really don’t know. Hopefully the South Carolina High School League will give us some guidelines in the few days.”
Meanwhile, Woodruff spring sports coaches are faced with the task of reassuring their players, calming fears, and remaining a positive face in the midst of a national crisis and worldwide pandemic that the young men and women in their charge have not faced in their lifetimes.
Woodruff baseball coach Grant Ramsey, whose team was off to a 2-1 start on the season, said that the health of his players is a top priority but that he remains available for each athlete during the mandated hiatus.
“Building relationships with these guys is a primary task for all coaches,” Ramsey said. “My guys know they can communicate with me about anything that might be difficult to handle and we are treating this no different. It’s heartbreaking for the guys, especially the seniors, but I understand the precautions. We are better off being over-prepared than under-prepared. Hopefully the South Carolina High School League can figure out how to modify the schedule so student athletes can complete their seasons.”
Woodruff softball coach Will Lanford added that he is trying to be as transparent with his players about the current situation and latest developments as possible.
“I try to be honest with my players,” he said. “I explained that these decisions are made with everyone’s health in mind and we should lean on our faith during these times.”
In a statement released by Spartanburg County District Four Schools, a target date to return to class for students is April 6, the Monday following the conclusion of the scheduled spring break. Additionally, all athletic contests, practices, and workouts are cancelled through April 1 with all district athletic facilities closed until the same date.
It should be noted that no confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in or around the Woodruff area or in any District Four school. Across the state there have been 28 positive tests of COVID-19 across seven counties as of March 15 according to state epidemiologist Linda Bell. Counties with diagnostic confirmation include Kershaw, Lancaster, Lexington, and Spartanburg with the newest presumptive positive tests coming from Anderson, Greenville, and Horry counties.
Lanford is hopeful that his team, and every other spring sports squad at Woodruff, will be able to play again this season as will programs across the state. If and when classes and the season resumes, he says, the Wolverine teams will work to get ready to once again compete.
“By rule we can’t have any organized practices, and with the uncertainly of this virus I’m not going to even suggest (the players) go work out,” he said. “Hopefully we will be able to play again this season and have some time to get some work and practice in before we play. The bottom line is their health and well-being. We will adjust and do what it takes to get back into playing shape when and if that time comes.”
Morris added that he wants all Woodruff students, athletes and non-athletes alike, to know that he, along with faculty and staff, are there with them and available for support during a difficult time.
“I think you tell them that we can only worry about things that we can control. This situation affects all of us and we will do the best we can,” he said.