This has been an unprecedented 12 months as the country has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.
While that struggle continues, Mother Nature also had something to say during the last week, with one of the biggest winter storms in recent memory.
High school athletics has tried to find ways to cope with the pandemic, and for the last few days, it has tried to do the same to protect the safety of area athletes and coaches amidst icy roads and freezing temperatures.
Girls basketball teams just began playoff games last week with the boys initially scheduled to open their postseason on Thursday. Soccer teams were in the middle of district play, softball programs could officially begin playing regular-season games this week, and the UIL’s girls swim meet is scheduled to take place Friday-Saturday in San Antonio.
The first wave of cold weather hit the area last Thursday, which coincided with the start of the girls basketball playoffs.
Though a handful of games were played that day, many were pushed back to Friday and Saturday where most, but not all, were completed to meet the University Interscholastic League’s bi-district certification deadline.
Though most teams were able to get their games completed, those who advanced have been affected by the delays.
The Sachse girls are scheduled to take on the winner of Killeen Harker Heights-Mansfield in the area round, while Horn is slated to face either Duncanville or Killeen Ellison.
Those games were moved back to Saturday but then postponed until Monday and Tuesday. As another round of icy weather hit the area, those games were again pushed back indefinitely on Tuesday as the UIL relaxed its area-round deadline in a memo sent to school athletic directors over the weekend.
“With wintery conditions delaying basketball games, UIL will be extending certification deadlines. Once we know more about when travel conditions will improve, UIL will communicate extensions to facilitate girls basketball playoff rounds and the completion of boys basketball district play,” the memo said.
With more weather hitting the area on Tuesday night, no make-up games have been reset, nor has the UIL made a ruling on when the area round deadline will be.
The boys basketball playoffs were are set to get started later this week and are facing many of the same challenges.
While most districts have settled their playoff fields, some are still trying to squeeze in play-in and seeding games during the course of the week, which could push back the bi-district round. District 6-6A, for example, had hoped to decide its No. 4 seed Tuesday in a play-in game between Plano and Hebron. That has since been postponed.
As teams wait for the next domino to fall relative to their schedules, they’re still having to prepare for those games despite schools, in many cases, being closed at least through Wednesday. As she prepares for her team’s area-round game, Plano East head girls basketball coach Jessica Linson conducted a Zoom session with her players on Tuesday to go over film. She also gave her players workouts to conduct at home.
“It kind of puts you back in the COVID mindset. Right now, everything is day-by-day only now we’ve got to take into accounts that kids might not have power,” Linson said. “On Monday, we didn’t Zoom meet — we just wanted to make sure they were safe and not using their power for a Zoom meeting.”
It’s not too dissimilar from the habits the Lady Panthers established during the spring and summer while quarantined. Video conferencing and in-home workouts became daily occurences for countless high school programs while conducting their offseasons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They’re a resilient group. I don’t think there’s much that can get this group off their focus. It really goes back to how they’ve had to handle COVID,” Linson said. “They did really well handling the quarantines. They were working out and holding each other accountable, so I think that really helps. I think what we had to go through during COVID helps prepare you for when you’re off your routine.”
The Lake Dallas girls had to make several revisions to their area-round matchup against Mansfield Timberview before ultimately deciding on 2 p.m. Saturday at Irving High School. Head coach Jordan Davis said that the two schools were looking to reschedule the game for Friday afternoon, but after several conversations with Irving High officials, the Lady Falcons and Lady Wolves decided to move their game back one day.
"We'll just do whatever we can to get them played, and safely," Davis said. "I saw that the (Dallas) Stars were supposed to play today and it was cancelled. I think these energy rollouts is what's making it difficult as well."
Safe travel has been the chief concern for the basketball playoffs, but with wind chills dropping into negative temperatures, most outdoor sports, including soccer, softball, baseball, tennis, golf and track and field, were suspended indefinitely.
Most of those sports are still in their season’s infancies, meaning those contests will not be made up.
But for soccer, which is in mid-district for most teams, they are facing the prospect of juggling multiple make-up matches when they hope to return to action either later this week or early next.
"I think that we'll be doing some kind of Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule," said Lee Weddall, The Colony head boys soccer coach.
It’s nothing new for the Coppell girls, who recently came off a two-week quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns within their program. The Cowgirls had three games postponed while quarantined, plus two more last Thursday against Marcus and Tuesday vs. Flower Mound due to inclement weather.
Swim teams, meanwhile, could be looking at alterations to their itineraries in advance of the girls state meet. Entering the week, 6A programs were scheduled to compete at San Antonio’s Josh Davis Natatorium on Friday with 5A’s meet taking place Saturday.
On Tuesday night, the Dallas Morning News’ Greg Riddle reported that the UIL has rescheduled the girls’ state meets for Monday-Tuesday. The boys meets will take place Feb. 26-27 as originally scheduled.
“As I explained to my kids, it’s not just Dallas but everywhere in the state and how they can get there,” said Brent Mitchell, Allen head swim coach. “It’s hard to make a decision on something like this, especially when it’s never happened before.”
The Lady Eagles will send four swimmers to state, with programs in Lewisville ISD and Frisco ISD among those locally also making preparations for the meet. With schools and numerous city facilities closed to start the week, that also leaves swimmers without a pool to train in.
It’s the latest in a year’s worth of obstacles in high school athletics. While that sort of adaptation has become commonplace for the students and coaches involved, the response to that adversity ultimately lies with the individual, Mitchell said.
“It’s the way we’ve lived 2020-21. You are who you are and you’ve got to step up and do the best job you can do,” he said. “I’ve had people who have come off the flu and swim great and others who were perfectly rested and healthy but didn’t swim well.
“Nobody can control what’s going on or how someone competes other than that person. A lot of that is done with the mind and the body. A lot of times the body might be right but if the mind isn’t, you won’t perform the way you can. If they allow something like this to hurt them, then it will. If they stay humble, stay focused and just stay happy, I think they can do well.”