SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- As the NJSIAA, the governing body for New Jersey high school sports, tries to put plans in place should school resume in mid- to late-May, coaches feel the loss of the spring season as much as the student athletes do.
We have not given up on spring sports, and will continue holding teleconferences and virtual meetings with leaders of our various leagues and conferences to assess options. - NJSIAA
According to Ryan Miller, athletic director at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, coaches are providing suggested workouts for the athletes while serving as a sounding board for questions that the students might have.
"Coaches are indeed mentors for young athletes," Miller told TAPintoSPF. "In many cases, high school students will tell things that are going on and how they're feeling to their coaches before they would tell their parents."
The coronavirus pandemic has created a situation that stundents and their mentors have not experienced before.
"To say things have been different would be a massive understatement," said track coach Jeffrey Koegel. "I began running track in March 1988, and track & field and cross-country have been a constant part of my life since then. I've never taken a season off (including the summers) since then. That's 24 years of teaching and coaching and 32 years in the sport. This is the longest I have been away from SPFHS since the summer of 1997."
"Everything is different now. I miss interacting with my students and student-athletes in a face-to-face capacity. I'm doing my best to support all of them however I can," said Koegel, who records Calculus lessons on video and shares them on Google Classroom and posts event-specific workouts every day for the kids on the team to do.
"We don't just tell kids to go take a few laps around the block. The type of training we do is very technical in nature, and it's taken a good amount of effort to modify workouts so that the kids can do them without having access to our track," Koegel said. "We are still hopeful that we will have a season, but understand that being home right now is the best thing for society and for public health."
Technology it has been a godsend for coaches who can share workouts, practice routines, and videos that can help keep them stay in shape and remain focused while teams are not together.
"No one is winning in this situation across the board in high school athletics," said lacrosse coach Nick Miceli. "Has this been hard on me? I would be a liar if I didn’t tell you that I have been hurting. It is the first time in almost 25 years that I do not have lacrosse in my life on daily basis during this time of year.
Miceli feels bad for all of his players, especially the seniors.
"This community has done remarkable job building our lacrosse program and making it such an important part of the lives of our players and their families," Miceli said. "Many of my seniors I have been coaching since 4th grade. We started a futures program and have been doing camps/clinics with these guys from such a young age. It’s upsetting that I may not get a chance to coach these boys again and have this team together."
"These boys have worked hard, and their senior season is the pinnacle of their SPF lacrosse career," Miceli added. "I’m staying optimistic that we can have some sort of abbreviated season, but in the end, I understand and agree that this is the right thing to do. We need to keep people home to keep people safe."
"I can't stop thinking about our seniors -- guys like Dean Kirian, probably our best all-around player, who lost parts of his sophomore and junior seasons to injury and was poised to have a huge year," said varsity baseball coach Joe Higgins. "I think about Michael Urbano who has a chance to step out of the shadows of last year's senior class and be a bona fide ace on our pitching staff. I think about Matt Delgado and Nolan O'Connor stepping up their contributions from last year."
HIggins said it is particularly rough for guys like Zac Zaller, Jacob Bottomly, Dom Romano, Danny Decker, and Jake Hahn who have had a long and adverse road to get to the varsity and now have to wait and see. This junior class, led by Dallas Lorenzetti and Chris Smith and a slew of talented kids who played JV last year, now has to wait to shine.
"I don't feel cheated because I get to do this year-in and year-out. These guys don't have that long here," Higgins said.
"Having the best spring weather that we have had in years and not being able to be on a ball field is a little frustrating," said varsity softball coach Jess Hulnik, who says she spends some of her time finding a lot of useful websites for both coaching and teaching.
"I am constantly looking for and putting together activities for both my students and players," she added. "I also have continuing education that I am required to do for both coaching and school. I also try to workout a couple of times a day."
"There is nothing we can do about this as it is a health crisis. I feel terrible for all the girls on the team and especially for the four seniors on the team that have stuck it out for the past four years. They will miss out on all the pasta parties, bus rides, wins, loses, practices, team-building, and so on that take place throughout the season," said girls lacrosse coach Virginia Weber. "I can only hope that there will potentially be a season in the future for the girls of the 2020 lacrosse team at SPF."
All the coaches seem to be heeding the type of advice that they would typically give their players during a game or meet.
"We always talk about how we control the things, such as effort and attitude, that are under our control and then hope for the best with things that are outside our control," Coach Koegel said. "I know a lot of our kids are out working hard. I enjoy hearing from them about how their workouts went. I miss being a part of it in person, though."
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