When football season started across the state of Indiana in August, Brady Days figured concerns about playing a full basketball season would be alleviated by the end of football.
“Well unfortunately football is ending but it’s not figured out,” the Southwestern boys’ basketball coach said at the end of one of his team’s practices.
The stark reality that teams across the state might not be able to finish out a season due to the COVID-19 pandemic remains a concern for basketball coaches in Shelby County as they prepare for their opening nights next week.
Southwestern and Waldron are scheduled to tip off the season locally with games on Tuesday. The Spartans are scheduled to travel to Mid-Hoosier Conference rival Edinburgh for a 7:30 p.m. game while Waldron hosts Crothersville at the same time.
The pandemic has affected the way in which teams prepare for the upcoming season.
At Shelbyville, John Hartnett Jr., who takes over for his first full year after serving as the interim coach last season, said that the program did not participate in its normally scheduled leagues and camps in June.
The team came back in July and had 1-1/2 months for offseason works, but had to split the team into groups.
Once school started, the Golden Bears worked out twice a week and within the last month, were able to get together as an entire group for the first time.
“It’s been great and it’s been awesome to see what these guys have done in the offseason to make themselves better,” Hartnett Jr. said during a practice this week. “We’ve all just kind of attacked this head on and you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Shelbyville is scheduled to open its season at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rushville.
With nine seniors on the varsity this year, the program is looking to turn the corner after an 8-15 season.
Hartnett Jr., a 2011 graduate who played for the Golden Bears, admitted it broke his heart to tell his team that they might not be able to get a full season in.
“I tell them I’d do anything to come back and play again, just play one more game,” he said. “It’s unfortunate for these guys, after this year, it’s over. They don’t get to do this again. So we just try to keep it very positive.”
Days pointed out that high school athletes have already experienced losing a season.
He has members on his team who were going to play baseball in the spring. All spring sports were canceled due to the pandemic and the boys’ basketball tournament was canceled once the sectional was completed.
And he noted that the girls’ basketball teams have already had postponements and cancelations this season.
“The boys, we haven’t gotten to games yet but it’s a reality. We’ll see,” he said.
As the athletic director at Southwestern, Days said he has met with other ADs to discuss these difficult circumstances.
One option that has already come to reality locally is to not have any fans in the stands.
That scenario played out when the Morristown girls’ team, which had to cancel the Kopper Kettle tournament and postpone four games, opened its season with nobody in the stands at South Decatur.
“It’s one of those things, everything we do is about trying to get it done for the kids,” Days said about making the best of the situation. “And unfortunately that puts it at an inconvenience for a parent or an inconvenience for a fan. But can we get it in. We haven’t talked a lot about that as a team about counting our blessings, trying to get it in. But it is in the back of our minds.”
Morristown coach Scott McClelland is determined to get a season in.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I’ll play at 8:15 on Sunday morning if it guarantees these kids a season. We’ve just decided we’re going to control what we can control and do the best we can to wash our hands and wear a mask. It’s out of our hands.”
Morristown was scheduled to tip off at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in a doubleheader with Triton Central, a tradition between the two schools. Typically, the girls’ teams play at 6 p.m. with the boys following.
Instead, the boys’ game has been postponed, in part because of the success of Triton Central’s football team, but also in an effort to reduce the number of fans in the gymnasium. The girls’ game is still scheduled for that night.
Morristown now tips its season off at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28 at home against Southwestern.
Part of the fun of being a coach is being able to travel around and scout other teams, Days said. But with the possibility of schools limiting the number of people in attendance to teams and necessary personnel, the Indiana High School Athletic Association is reaching the point of not allowing in-person scouting, he said.
Instead, coaches might have to rely on obtaining film from opposing teams – or even tracking down “random YouTube channels,” he said.
McClelland said he has talked to his team about controlling what it can control by practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and washing their hands.
“If we can play in front of a full crowd, that would be great,” he said. “If we can’t, it is what it is. I wish there was some wand I could wave and make all this go away.”
Regardless of what happens, Days said his team has been happy to be back in the gym preparing for the season.
“One thing I like, we’ve got competitors,” he said. “Wherever we have to play, whoever we have to play, whether we scouted them or we didn’t, let’s just play some basketball and let’s try to have some fun.”