JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Last year- baseball teams were only able to play a handful of games before Covid-19 stopped their season. Other spring sports, like tennis, men’s soccer and softball weren’t able to play at all and those in track and field weren’t able to compete.
“We had already been practicing since like September and all that hard work just went down the drain,” said Science Hill junior tennis player, Micah Richardson. “It was just a very disheartening experience but it makes me want this even more.”
Monday, for the first time in more than a calendar year, those coaches and players are just thankful to have a season, especially those who didn’t know if they would be able to compete for their senior year.
“We lost that season and it was tough for us but we’re going to come back stronger because we’re ready to go back to state,” said Science Hill senior tennis player, Zack Clemmons. “We’ve taken all the protocols and we’ve made sure to stay safe so that we can get our season because that’s what’s most important to us and having fun with it too.”
Science Hill’s Varsity Boy’s tennis team was hoping to make a return to the state tournament in 2020. The seniors on that team, weighing heavy on the coach as this year’s season gets underway.
“We started off this morning with texting the boys that didn’t get the chance to have that season last year and we were just saying ‘It’s crazy to believe but the last time that Science Hill Tennis had a match was two years ago when we were at the state tournament,'” said boy’s tennis head coach, Kelly Lane. “So much has transpired since then and we wanted to let those boys know that everything we do is in honor of them.”
Before practice, temperature checks are required along with players answering a questionnaire about how they are feeling and if they or anyone in their family has been exposed to the virus. Players are also separated by 10 feet during practice and do not congregate.
“Normally, we would get to go into a weight room, we would get to go into the gym. We haven’t been able to do that this year so we’ve had a lot of time spent on zoom, had a lot of time in our group chat just encouraging each other,” said Coach Lane. “We’ve set up different trivia nights on zoom that boys can play. We’re trying to start that team bonding. It’s just a little different than in years’ past.”
The TSSAA requires temperature checks, masks, and social distancing are with a one-third capacity cap. Those rules, the same as they were in the fall and something Science Hill’s Athletic Director, Keith Turner hopes people don’t let up on inside and outside of games.
“We got through the fall, people had a sigh of relief there. A lot of people thought we’d never make it through winter sports and we did and now that we’re here in the spring we’re grateful to be here and we’re going to do whatever we need to do to make it happen for them,” he said. “Our spring student athletes have already missed one season and we definitely don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.”
Over in Gray, soccer, baseball, and softball, all took place at home for Daniel Boone High School Monday night.
“Usually we have a few tournaments before our opening day game but I think we’ve had a lot of practices. We’ve had a lot more time to practice so I think we were well prepared for our game today,” said Daniel Boone senior softball player, McKenna Dietz. “Everyone was really excited and nervous. It’s been over a year since we’ve been back on the field so I think everybody was anxious to get back.”
Baseball is also home for the trailblazers several times this week.
“It’s been exciting. Kids have been excited all day long… the coaching staff’s excited. It’s a great day. It’s a fun day,” said Scott Hagi, head baseball coach for Daniel Boone. “I hope we have large crowds and get excited to see our kids play… see all the kids play in spring sports because they got a lot taken away from them last year and it would be nice to see good crowds come out and support our high school athletes.”
The multi-sport game nights a “tough situation” on campus, especially when it comes to making sure temperature checks happen and masks are being worn.
“Our leadership and administration have asked us to diligently ask those folks to wear theirs and we diligently ask those folks to wear theirs and we do make announcements throughout the events,” said Athletic Director Danny Good. “For us to enforce it is challenging and it can be challenging at times but we’re doing the best we can.”
The TSSAA’s governing bodies will meet this week. Athletic leaders anticipate spring sport protocols to be a topic of discussion at that meeting.