By Kevin Eickman
As February turned to March of this year, there was little indication about what was going to unfold in both the athletic and educational world of Delaware. State wrestling championships were taking place and many other winter sports were preparing for their tournaments. By the time the middle of March rolled around, it was obvious the world as we knew it had changed. Schools were closed, tournaments were canceled as a veil of uncertainty abounded throughout Delaware. While it was prudent to close out the last school year in the fashion it was accomplished, most people had a proper understanding of just how devastating the COVID-19 pandemic was going to impact our lives.
As the months passed, the unfortunate reality of what was happening in the world became more evident. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the calendar was pushing the end of July, with plenty of decisions to be made. The Delaware Interscholastic Athletics Association (DIAA) was trying to figure out how or even if athletics would take place in the upcoming academic year. “There was a lot of ideas that were put forward, with the underlying thought being the safety of students and staff,” Milford Athletics Director Ryan Winkleblech said. “The DIAA was looking at what other states were doing, evaluating what would work for us and really trying to do what was best for everyone.”
After a 15-0 vote by the DIAA’s board of directors, the State Department of Education approved the following schedule in hope of having sports in the upcoming academic year. Fall sports have been moved to late winter, with practice slated to begin on February 19 and an abbreviated regular season to commence on March 12, with the completion date of regular season sports on April 17. To put an abbreviated season in perspective, note that the football season will be just six games long. “Obviously we would have liked to play more games, but it will be the same amount of games for everyone,” Milford football coach Shaun Strickland said. “We simply have to face the reality of the times we are living in. If we can get our players on the field and allow them to have at least some type of season, at least that will be something.”
Winter sports will actually be the first sports to be played, with practice scheduled to begin December 14 and the regular season to commence on January 4, ending on February 15 with the postseason to follow. Spring sports would then follow to close out the year with practices beginning April 19, the regular season beginning May 10 and concluding on June 19, with the playoffs to follow.
One thing to remember is, this isn’t simply about athletics, this is about almost all extracurricular activities in general. “Hey, we need to remember one thing here, these aren’t just athletics we are talking about, this is everything. Winkleblech said. “We are talking about band, the arts, drama, almost anything that keeps a student extra engaged during the course of the year.”
While the plans are in place and we are all hopeful that this can be pulled off, there is a harsh reality which we must all take a look at. There is a possibility that what we anticipate in August, may be an entirely different reality in December. While the administrators have done their best, the health and welfare of all involved may trump any dreams of our hopes for athletics this year.