When it comes to fall and winter sports, the hungriest mouth gets fed.
That’s why the LHSAA has issued guideline after guideline about the fall’s potential for playing football. And while the start date to the football season has been pushed back to Oct. 8, assuming the state will enter into Phase 3 by the end of the month, high school basketball practice is still set for that following week in October.
As far as updates go, that's it. Basketball coaches know just as much as everyone else, and as Wossman head coach Casey Jones put it, many of them have been left out in the dark, searching for answers like everyone else.
West Monroe boys head coach Kyle Hill used an analogy in explaining why.
“Football is like the hole in the heart and basketball is like a broken a foot,” Hill said. “You have to fix the hole in the heart first.”
Some around the sport feel basketball’s chances of playing may be riding on the success of football being played in the fall. Ouachita head coach Jeremy Madison thinks there could possibly be a trickle down effect that involves a major college football decision that impacts all of us on a local level. For example, should the SEC cancel its season, the LHSAA would likely follow.
“Me being biased, I want my kids to play,” Madison said. “Football is big not only in our area, but also in our state. If (football) were to be canceled or postponed, that would affect basketball and all the other sports. I’m hoping they can play, even if it’s just district.”
And that goes for his basketball squad as well. Multiple coaches have said even if they’re not able to have fans in the stands or play in tournaments, they still want their seniors to have the opportunity to compete on the court if it can be done in a safely manner. But that begs the question — can you pull off a winter sport successfully during this pandemic?
“What not a lot of people are talking about too is the fact that it’s during flu season,” Hill said. “I think that’s a big question that needs to be addressed. What if you’re hit hard by the flu and by the virus?”
Still, basketball programs are trying to plan their seasons and budgets accordingly. The season hasn't been postponed or canceled at this point, so basketball coaches are tasked with trying to maneuver through this difficult process while hurdling new problems that arise because of COVID-19. It gets even trickier given there's a possibility of no tournaments or fans allowed at games.
“That’s a huge part of our budget,” said Jones, talking about Wossman's annual Belton/Williams Classic. “We’ve got teams lined up, but is it going to be beneficial for all of them to come? In my tournament, I pay for hotels and meals. How are you paying for that if you’re not allowing fans in?”
And that’s if tournaments are even feasible. Though LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine told reporters on a Zoom call recently that there was no plans in place to push back the start dates for any of the other sports, basketball coaches in the area remain skeptical about that to say the least.
“There’s no way that isn’t going to affect the start of basketball,” Jones said.
Madison took it another step further, citing several reasons as to why the start date would be pushed back.
“Could I play here? Sure, I have enough to play,” Madison said. “But what about your small schools? They have several athletes that play multiple sports. I have a few football players, but I could still play. I don't think your small schools could pull that off.”
As for getting ready for said seasons, well, teams are learning how to workout without passing the ball. Some are even getting additional exercise by rebounding their own ball after every shot attempt. Madison said he has every player take ownership of one basketball for an entire workout, and then he wipes them all down after they are over.
Hill laughed about the differences in workouts this year.
“Kids get a lot of shots up,” Hill said, laughing. “Kids do a lot of individual ball handling. It limits you. You just have to make the best out of every situation. Trying to give the kids some semblance of normalcy. Give them the most that we can because there’s a mental side to this too.”
“I think we are going to play,” Madison said. “I guess it’s just the coach in me. I want the kids to play because some seniors come on late and get that last-second look. You take that away from a kid, and it really hurts their chances of playing at the next level. I hope we can play, and I hope football can play. I hope everything goes to back to being somewhat normal very soon.”