I typically stay away from lightning rod opinion article pieces because ultimately it does no one any good and to be honest my opinion amounts to less than toilet paper, well before toilet paper became a gold commodity. However, with the Kansas High School Activities Association canceling the rest of the 2020 State Basketball tournament and the unfair backlash they are receiving this seemed like as good of a time as any to write an opinion piece.
First off, let me say my heart absolutely hurts for the student-athletes, the coaches, the cheerleaders, pep bands, school districts, and communities who had their hopes of claiming a state basketball title ripped from them at 8:34PM on Thursday night when KSHSAA sent out this tweet:
The 2020 KSHSAA State Basketball Tournament will conclude after the quarterfinal round. pic.twitter.com/zzRl3qS81R
— KSHSAA (@KSHSAA) March 13, 2020
My heart hurts for the seniors who unknowingly, win or lose, very well could have played their last basketball game ever in a school setting. To the teams who won, but now there is no “survive and advance”. To the parents who have spent hours taking their children to practice and camps and suddenly, it’s over without warning. To the teams who are tweeting on social media, “let us play!” My heart hurts for all of those scenarios.
However, this is out of KSHSAA’s hands and they made the only decision they could.
Rick Peterson of the Topeka Capital-Journal wrote 2 terrific articles detailing KSHSAA’s dilemma entering into the tournament and moments after the decision was made. (Those articles can be found here and here). In it, he details KSHSAA’s reasoning for continuing the tournaments on Wednesday given Kansas’ unique position with the sites and a day later how they came to their final decision to cancel. (There is a paywall, but even so it worth the .99 for the trial).
What’s lost in anger and hurt of this decision is ultimately KSHSAA is bound by the management of the facilities. They do not own any of the 6 sites. They are merely tenants for these 4 days. 3 of the 6 facilities are owned by State Universities and Colleges, 6A Wichita State University, 3A Hutchinson Community College, and 2A K-State University. When Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued a State of Emergency in response to the 1st reported case of COVID-19, or the CoronaVirus, in Kansas at around 8PM Thursday evening, it put KSHSAA in a bind to suddenly find new sites for 3 of the 6 State tournaments. It became a logistics nightmare.
“They’re already there and if they’re already infected why not just play it out?” was a popular rally cry moments and hours after KSHSAA released their decision. With campuses across the state closing and site managers making decisions for the safety of their staff members, where would coaches, players, officials, go to finish the tournament? For schools that are tight on the budget, how do they transport their coaches (faculty) and student-athletes possibly across the State to a new location? Where would KSHSAA turn to for facilities, scoreboard operators, box office members, security, and trainers? Where would KSHSAA get the additional funds, on top of the money they’ve already poured into getting these tournaments up and going months in advance, for at least 3 new sites?
There is a lot of outrage, frustration, hurt, anger. However, even when you take the health and safety measures out of the equation, it was almost logistically and financially impossible for the tournaments to continue. KSHSAA made the right, difficult call. In my honest opinion, the fact they pushed onward with the tournaments to get the 1st rounds in what was a gutsy call in its own rights.
One of the goals in high school sports is to teach life lessons of overcoming adversity. Finding ways to rise through the challenge of things that are out of our control. I will finish this piece with a tweet from Dr. Bhrett McCabe that came across my timeline that I hope helps those who are struggling with the decision that winter sports is suddenly over cope:
Things are bigger than sports – lots of disappointment today but use it as a reminder that the next time you feel angry, frustrated, or miserable after an event or game, it really can be taken from you in an instant – see it from a perspective that you get to play your game
— Bhrett McCabe, PhD (@DrBhrettMcCabe) March 13, 2020