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Well, we knew it was coming…

     To say what has happened just since last week was a surprise would be a little overstated as I don’t think there is a sportswriter, coach, player, administrator, or fan anywhere that didn’t expect COVID-19 to start taking its toll on the local sports scene.
     It started with the Johnson County Longhorn football team having to quarantine and then came the news that Greeneville Middle and High School athletics were shut down to positive tests.
    This week Sullivan North was forced to quarantine its players due to a positive test and Happy Valley High School head coach Jason Jarrett closed down practice this week due to an abundance of caution.
    Finally, the week culminated on Thursday evening when the Carter County School Board voted to suspend sports and all extracurricular activities until students can return safely to school.
    With the announcement, Hampton canceled its first game against Gatlinburg-Pittman and Cloudland did likewise against Happy Valley. Needless to say, this is just the beginning of the domino effect with teams throughout the Northeast Tennessee region as more positive tests continue to be reported not only from football but volleyball teams as well.
    It is truly a very tough time for athletes and coaches to slowly see their season being erased one game at a time due to this pandemic that has thrown everyone’s life into a spin from young to old.
    In listening to the Carter County School board meeting on Thursday, it was easy to tell that the board struggled with the best way to address athletics in the county especially in the wake of deciding to go all virtual beginning August 24th.
    The final decision was one that everyone on the board felt strongly about and that was that if students cannot be in the classroom due to COVID-19 then they do not belong on the field of play either as some kids throughout the community are being raised by older grandparents with immune-compromised health issues that could result in serious problems should the kids carry the virus home.
    Sports in general throughout the country are struggling with COVID-19 as reports of the coronavirus infecting football teams, cheerleaders, and even bands are easily found on the AP wire service daily.
    There are also arguments on both sides of the line that are very viable especially when it comes to talk surrounding the mental health of kids and athletes since this virus began to escalate in March.
    Pros and cons are easy to come up with for those arguments, however, in all situations, the questions outnumber the answers.
    When school board members, coaches, and administrators throughout the country signed on to become part of their local school systems, never did they ever envision having to battle through such a tough time dealing with a worldwide pandemic.
    Yet that is the exact position they sit in today and for those that disagree with their decisions, it’s easy to be an arm-chair quarterback and say well if that was me then I would do this, or I would do that.
    My stance is I am GLAD that I don’t have to make these type of decisions because whether you make a decision to protect the health of the athletes and communities or if you decide to open up the doors full-throttle – there will be someone taking to social media to scald you for making that choice.
    Hopefully, somewhere along the way we can all come together and work side by side as we support these people who are having to make the tough decisions especially when it comes to athletics which seems to bind communities together more so than education.
    And along the way, there will be some decision-makers from the state government down to the TSSAA that will have enough courage to stand up and establish benchmarks that help local decision-makers know exactly what is expected without just washing their hands as Pontius Pilate did with Jesus and allow the mob to make the choice.
    We all knew this was coming way before we got to this point and the future certainly is cloudy as to what the next six to eight months will hold.         Let’s strive to be as positive as we can especially in front of these kids as we have as much impact mentally to the kids in how we react as parents, grandparents, and support personnel as the kids being out of school.
    Always remember that no matter how dark the clouds, the sun doesn’t stop shining. The clouds will clear and a brighter day will come.