High School Sports

Katy ISD student-athletes hope, train and wait

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 3/16/20

Seven Lakes sophomore soccer player Katie Fitzpatrick was at a friend’s house on March 13 when she received a text message that the next day’s practice might be canceled. Her friend then received a message stating the University Interscholastic League, the state’s governing body for high school athletics, had canceled all practices and events.

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High School Sports

Katy ISD student-athletes hope, train and wait

Posted

Seven Lakes sophomore soccer player Katie Fitzpatrick was at a friend’s house on March 13 when she received a text message that the next day’s practice might be canceled. Her friend then received a message stating the University Interscholastic League, the state’s governing body for high school athletics, had canceled all practices and events.

Katy High junior softball player Olivia McFadden was on her way to a hitting practice when she heard the UIL news. In between innings of a tournament doubleheader, Cinco Ranch senior baseball player Logan Henderson and his teammates were in the dugout when a parent popped in and told them this would probably be their last game for a while.

Tompkins senior soccer player Lauryn Wild was told the news by head coach Jarrett Shipman through their team app. Katy senior baseball player Alec Atkinson and his teammates were told by head coach Tom McPherson before their last tournament baseball game against Langham Creek.

“I started to hear a lot of news on (the morning of March 12), when a lot of the events started to get canceled,” Cinco Ranch junior distance runner Sophie Atkinson said. “I actually had a race planned that night in San Antonio, and I was worried it’d get canceled. But they still put it on, and it was kind of like a last-chance meet. I went into that race knowing it was probably one of my last chances to run, so I had to give it my all.”

She did. Atkinson ran the United States’ No. 2 outdoor time in the mile run that night, clocking at 4-minutes, 48.95 seconds.

Katy ISD student-athletes remember exactly where they were and what they were doing that Friday afternoon when they heard the UIL suspended all athletics competition March 16-29 because of precautions for coronavirus, a type of virus which there are many different kinds. It came just a day after Katy ISD extended its spring break for a week to March 22 and postponed its own athletic events.

Then came news Sunday, March 15, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recommended that organizers, be it individuals or groups, cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks. A day later, the UIL announced the suspension of practices through March 29, which had been initially left up to the discretion of the local school district.

And just hours after that UIL announcement, Katy ISD announced it was extending its break another two weeks and not opening until April 13 at the earliest.

“It’s been something out of a scary movie,” McFadden said. “But I believe this country has the smartest doctors, scientists, and elected officials. So, I have no doubt that we’ll kick Coronavirus’ butt here before too long.

“But as it applies to softball, whether it’s the coronavirus or the plain, old American flu, we’ll never quit. This is Katy High. Home of Champions.”

Precautions for coronavirus have caused the NCAA to cancel its spring sports season and March Madness. It’s led to the NBA, NHL and MLS suspending their respective seasons indefinitely, and Major League Baseball canceling spring training and pushing the start of its season back two weeks, for now.

“In my honest opinion, I think they are overhyping it, but they could know something that the general people do not,” Henderson said. “It is very contagious, and the number of cases will just multiply day by day. It’s sad to see all of these sporting events being canceled. My heart goes out to all of the athletes and the workers who make all of the games happen, because they will be without jobs for a while. Hopefully this thing blows over soon and we can just play baseball again.”

For now, Katy ISD student-athletes cannot be in physical proximity to their coaches. Campuses are closed.

It’s all a significant difference for student-athletes in that they do not have the guidance of coaches or partnership of teammates in a group setting to work with. They have to stay motivated on their own, develop their own drills at times, and find their own workout venues, all while keeping in mind to distance themselves from groups and stay isolated as best as they can because of coronavirus.

“When you’re a team, you have routines,” said Sophie Atkinson, who intends to find a field for her workouts and run around the Cinco Ranch area. “For us (at Cinco Ranch), it’s been getting together every morning and hammering out workouts, but now we don’t have that and we don’t have the direction of our coaches. It’s a lot of self-discipline and accountability, and everyone takes that differently.”

For others, the hiatus provides rest.

“I have been using some of this time to recover and relax my muscles as we have been playing two games a week for the last six weeks,” Fitzpatrick said, “but at the same time, I have still been getting touches on the ball, because even though we haven’t been practicing, I don’t want to lose my touch.”

Tompkins sophomore softball player Avery Hodge has been going to hitting lessons and practicing at the Program 17 facility in Katy. Henderson has been staying on top of his arm care routine and doing workouts.

Before her team departed for spring break on March 9, Wild’s coaches gave players a workout plan, with specific exercises for each day, to adhere to over the break. Wild is still getting work in with a ball since the workouts are not soccer-based.

McFadden is attending personal hitting and strength and agility lessons.

“I’ve always been taught to control the controllables,” McFadden said. “So, I’m just trying to stay ready for when the time comes. You can hit in the cages or off a tee every day, but there’s no substitution for game at-bats. Everything else, I feel we have the reps and have established the necessary muscle memory to get the job done. If not, we’ll be running until we do, short season or not.”

There lies another factor: the idea that the UIL could cancel the rest of its spring sports season and whatever remained of its state boys basketball tournament, which was suspended on the first day of play last week.

“It is a scary thought,” Hodge said. “Our team has had a really good start to the season (12-3), and everyone was very excited to pick up from where we left off last year.”

At the moment, the high school softball season is a couple of games into district play. The baseball season is on the brink of starting district play. The soccer season has a few games left of district play. The track and field, tennis and golf seasons are a couple weeks off from district and postseason play beginning.

“I have major concerns that the UIL will follow in the NCAA’s footsteps and cancel the rest of our season, because they have already suspended the season by two weeks,” Wild said. “I understand that, obviously, there are a lot more people involved in NCAA events, which is why they would cancel seasons like that. I just hope that instead of cancelling our season, the people making such a serious decision like that understand this is going to gravely impact many athletes’ lives.

“Especially as a senior athlete, I hope they will do everything they can to make our seasons happen. I don’t know what exactly the solution is for all of this, but whether it is not allowing spectators or continuing to postpone the season until it’s safe to play or eliminating the unnecessary games to allow for playoffs to happen, I hope the UIL does everything they can to allow these seasons to finish.”

Alec Atkinson does not want to even consider the thought of an abrupt cancellation.

“I don’t like to imagine that our seniors’ high school careers would end like that,” he said. “It would be truly devastating for all of us after four years of pouring our blood, sweat and tears into the program and into the game. In the end, it’s completely out of everybody’s control, so as of right now I’m just concerned about the team staying sharp for however long this suspension lasts, so that when we get back, we pick up where we left off without skipping a beat.”

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