Oklahoma is still going ahead with a normal schedule for high school fall sports for now, but there seems to be more questions about high school sports in the time of COVID-19 than answers – even for the people in charge.
“Never have we had anything like this that produced so much uncertainty,” said David Jackson, the executive director of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.
“We’ve gotta be flexible,” said Broken Arrow head football coach David Alexander. “Are we gonna play one week and not the next? Are we gonna play three weeks in a row then not a game? Maybe, right? Maybe.”
The possibility of no fall sports is bad news for high school seniors in Oklahoma who have their sights set on earning the best college athletic scholarship they can get – like Broken Arrow’s Darryan Moss.
For Darryan, playing college ball is a personal goal and more. It’s also about keeping his word to his dad Lloyd who passed away three years ago.
“I was gonna go play Division I football. I promised that on his death bed,” Darryan said.
Darryan’s mom Dawn mourned the loss of her husband that day and worried for her kids growing up without their father.
“When tragedy hit, it was scary,” Dawn said. “It could have went either way, you know.”
Dawn says she’s proud of how Darryan has grown up. She makes sure he follows the recommended precautions during a pandemic, and she trusts the leaders of high school sports in Oklahoma to make the right call about having fall sports.
“I do believe that they care about the kids,” Dawn said. “They want to keep the kids safe. So I feel confident.”
Dawn thinks Darryan will get to play his senior season, but she knows it’s a possibility he won’t.
“Oh, that would be tough. Ya, that would be tough. I don’t know. I don’t even wanna think that way,” Dawn said. “It would be really heartbreaking if he couldn’t play his senior season.”
Darryan already has seven scholarship offers, but they’re from smaller schools. He wants to go to a power five team – a blue blood. A full senior season could help Darryan accomplish that dream and fulfill that promise to his dad with a scholarship to one of college football’s best.
“When I get there, I’m gonna be happy. I’m gonna be happy,” Darryan said.
Whether fall sports happen for Darryan and everyone else could depend on the efforts people make now, before the season.
“I think the schools are trying extremely hard,” said Dr. Bruce Dart. He’s the executive director of the Tulsa Health Department, the point man in the city’s fight against coronavirus.
“In all honesty, I think there’s a chance we could have some sports,” Dr. Dart said. “I think they won’t look like they do today.”
That goes for the crowd.
“A high school that might have 10-15,000 capacity, you only want possibly a third of that,” Dr. Dart said.
It goes for travel too.
“You know, you put kids together in a bus, even with their masks, they’re together in a closed environment for a long time which is potentially a high-risk situation even with a mask,” Dr. Dart said. “So we have to think about are we not gonna have games where we travel more than an hour, more than two hours so we can limit that risk.”
High school sports can happen this fall, but they’ll look different, the schedule might be different, and all the changes might not happen smoothly.
“This is not going to be an easy fall. I mean, it’s just not,” Dr. Dart said. “And we need to I think acknowledge that going forward, but we’ll get through this if we truly decide to work together as opposed to working apart and being divided.”
No matter what high school sports look like in the future – or when they return – for some people, it’s just good enough that they do return.
“If this hasn’t done anything else, it’s given us a lesson – a crash course – in how important just having the opportunity to play is,” David Jackson said. “Let’s not ever take participation in our activities for granted again.”
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