Wednesday, June 16, 2021
June 16, 2021

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Martinez: Basketball coaches deal with pauses, scheduling best they can

Different guidelines in different school districts add to challenges

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published:

One of the great things about sports is they can provide life lessons.

Take our recent unpleasantness for example.

Team is faced with a challenging foe. So the coach devises a game plan, the players learn the plan then go out and execute it. But just when it looks like victory is assured, the players ease up on the gas, and the foe rallies back to win.

The message many high school basketball coaches are telling their players right now is “Don’t let up on the gas” when it comes to protections against the COVID-19 virus.

“We’ve just been telling the kids ‘if the season is important to you, then you have to do whatever you can to make sure it continues,’ ” said Brett Johnson, coach for the Skyview girls team. “And that means wearing your mask and following the protocols.”

Last week, when the Gov. Jay Inslee announced that every county in the state would be returning to Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, that came as good news to high school basketball teams.

It meant teams up in Cowlitz County could go back to hosting games again. And for everyone, it took away the fear that the season might be shut down because of rising cases.

But at the same time, several area high school basketball programs were put on pause because of positive cases in their program. To date, teams from Skyview, Prairie, Columbia River, Woodland and La Center have had to deal with pauses ranging from 7 days to 10 days to two weeks.

“You’d think we could all work off the same guidelines when it comes to pauses so it could be fair to everyone,” Johnson said.

But the length of those pauses is determined by the risk management teams of each school district. If one district adopts a 14-day pause, that becomes the common denominator. And a 14-day pause is a steep price for a program whose season might only be five weeks long.

A pause doesn’t just mean no games. It means no practices either.

“If you get one positive case in your program, you are shut down,” Columbia River boys coach David Long said. “So we’re wearing masks, we’re taking temperatures every day, and we tell kids to follow the protocols in the gym, at school and away from school.”

That “away from school” part is where things can get tricky.

“It kind of feels like a game of craps,” Ridgefield boys coach Jason Buffum said. “You’re just hoping the dice falls in your favor and you can keep playing. You can get as strict as you want — and I feel our school has been pretty strict with the guidelines — but there are some things that are just out of your control.”

And not every pause is at least week. Some games have been canceled this season so that potential exposures can be investigated.

“You can play a team, and the next day one of their kids comes up positive,” Long said. “And then you’ve got to contact trace back to your team.”

It would be difficult to find a team in the area that hasn’t been impacted in one way or another, either with a pause, a canceled game or rescheduled game. And that worry is leading some coaches to get proactive with their schedules.

The Seton Catholic boys had a game scheduled Monday against Goldendale that got called off. So the Cougars quickly pivoted to get game set up with Heritage to fill the void.

“We’ve got a bye in our schedule Wednesday, and I’m trying to find someone to play,” Buffum said. “But then you have to consider that the girls team might be playing that day. Or maybe the wrestling team needs the gym, or you have to find officials, or transportation. There are just so many factors to deal with.”

Buffum feels fortunate that his team has not been as impacted as other teams.

“I feel so bad for those teams that have had to be put on pause,” he said, “because we all waited so long for the chance to play.”

Long added: “It’s a lot of to take in. But the alternative is not playing at all. We’re still on the floor right now, so we’re going to make the most of every game we get.”

Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4538, tim.martinez@columbian.com or follow his Twitter handle @360TMart.

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