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Athletes, coaches grapple with school closures

By TREY WILLIAMS

H&T Correspondent

It’s a bargain at any rate, certainly, but there’s a stiff price to be paid for school closures implemented to help stem the spread of coronavirus.

Should spring sports not resume, which most coaches and athletes seem to fear is all but certain, seniors will have seen their careers come to a surreal anti-climax that will essentially leave time suspended.

Second-year David Crockett baseball coach Spencer Street has been numbed by the turn of events.

“This is the first time since 1990 that I have not had baseball in the spring,” Street said. “I am no doubt enjoying my extra time with the kids and getting some much-needed things done around my house. But every morning I wake up and every night when I go to sleep I think about my guys. I just wish I could spend some time with them, because I know when they are with me on the ballfield everything’s all right in their life.

“I think about my seniors. They may have played their last inning of baseball and it’s a fight for me not to get emotional because I know how much they care and how hard they have worked. I understand that there are a lot of things in this world that are more important than baseball, but when you’re an 18-year-old kid and staring your career in the face, it probably doesn’t seem that much more is important at that moment. We all have to play our last game sometime. I just hate that it wasn’t on our own terms.”

Daniel Boone’s softball team is coming off a 44-7 season and could conceivably end up being better this season. But instead of cleaning the bases, senior shortstop Jaycie Jenkins is cleaning out closets. She’s running to stay in shape, hitting with her younger sister, hanging out with family and “hoping to get to finish our softball season.”

Thinking about the remarkably versatile Jenkins, a three-sport star, being prematurely shelved brought some words from late, great Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia to mind: “Sitting here in limbo, like a bird without a song.”

The suspension of spring sports has set adrift go-getters and overachievers, and many driven people are suddenly trying to shift into neutral, more or less. If he’s not babysitting his granddaughter or binge-viewing Netflix, first-year Daniel Boone baseball coach Scott Hagy might be found replacing the clutch in his 1988 Mustang GT.

Granted, he’d rather be trying to win the Big Seven Conference race with the Rolls-Royce he inherited in Tennessee signee Cade Elliott.

Daniel Boone football/softball coach Jeremy Jenkins is spending some of his newfound time behind the wheel. He is preparing and delivering lunches for students and mowing, as well as working around the house, grilling out and binge-watching Chicago PD.

David Crockett softball coach Carla Weems has also dabbled in home-delivery, helping out a co-worker with health issues.

Weems assumed this would be her first spring in five years without her daughter Kara, who had started the season at Milligan after pitching four years at Crockett. But now they’re idle and teaming up to pass time.

Daniel Boone track coach Len Jeffers is spending more time with his parents too, hanging out at the family farm.

“Lately I have been cutting and cleaning up some big trees in our yards that have been cut down or topped,” Jeffers said. “Occasionally, I take off on waterfall hikes. Explored five (Friday).”

David Crockett football coach Hayden Chandley and his wife Lauren, the Pioneers cross country coach, are getting a jump on the arrival of their first child, a still-to-be-named son due to be born on July 7.

“With my wife and I being educators, we’ve put some material up online for our students to look at during their time off,” Chandley said. “And I had a chance to put my crib together for our little one that’s coming. And just before things started getting crazy I bought a dresser. It took me about a full day to put it together with some help from my wife.

“In my free time I’ve gone back and watched a little (football) film. And we’ve gotten outside and enjoyed the outdoors and some good weather we had this week, ran a few days and walked a few days. You try to make the most of a crappy situation.”

Spring football looks highly doubtful, of course, and who knows how that might affect the summer and fall slates.

“I don’t think really anybody knows what the future holds,” Chandley said. “It’d be hard for me to believe that we’ll be doing any kind of spring practice. We foresee that the summer schedule could be altered as well.

“Hopefully, it doesn’t affect us to where we have to limit our games or anything like that. If it got into football, the TSSAA has the ability to kind of push football back a little bit and maybe push basketball back a little bit. You maybe just have to condense everything down, whereas this spring, you know, you just had so little time and you’re up against a time crunch.”

Chandley played football, basketball and baseball at Daniel Boone. Considering this potentially unfair fate of seniors gives him pause.

“It would be terribly heartbreaking,” Chandley said. “I can’t imagine what the kids are going through. It doesn’t matter what you say to ‘em, nothing’s really gonna make ‘em feel any better about it. My heart goes out to those guys.

“The lesson to be learned is never take anything for granted and always take advantage of the opportunities you have. Like they say, play every game like it’s your last and leave it all out there, because you never know when it’s gonna be taken away from you.”