‘It’s just really sad’: High school athletes hit hard by news of extended school closure

The news of schools staying closed until the end of the spring semester has hit high school athletes hard, especially seniors. (Photo by Tim Greenway/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

TEMPE – After learning of Gov. Doug Ducey’s decision to keep schools closed through the end of the spring semester, the reality hit hard for high school coaches and athletes who won’t have the opportunity to play and coach sanctioned sports again.

“It makes me feel really sad and defeated,” said Summer Duran, one of three seniors on the Corona del Sol softball team. “I’ve been looking forward to this all year. The fact I can’t hangout with my team anymore on the field and we can’t have practices together anymore. I just won’t have that end of high school softball experience.”

Student athletes and coaches around the state were looking forward to returning in two weeks but with President Donald Trump extending social distancing guidelines on Sunday to April 30, Ducey had to act and the Arizona Interscholastic Association followed suit.

“This is an unfortunate circumstance for all of our member schools, students and coaches,” AIA Executive Director David Hines said in a statement. “We know this decision was a hard one, but one that was necessary to assist in the well-being of everyone across Arizona. We hope everyone stays healthy and focused on what the next chapter will bring.”

Before the announcement Monday morning, all schools were ordered to be closed until April 10.

“Heartbroken … heartbroken for those kids,” said Rich Hamilton, softball coach at Red Mountain. “I feel so bad for those kids and how they aren’t getting to play their senior season.”

Corona del Sol softball coach Jeep Ray was looking forward to returning to coaching in a few weeks.

Ray is retiring as the softball coach this season but has to teach one more semester before being able to retire completely.

Upon learning the news that broke Monday however, Ray’s first reaction was about her players.

“I just thought about my seniors,” Ray said. “I just thought about the whole team and how hard they worked and seniors and how they won’t be able to have their spotlight.”

Before the announcement, many coaches and players remained optimistic about playing again this season.

Ray sent members of her team a video of a yoga workout recently to help players stay in shape on their own time.

Hamilton was frequently texting his players, offering them words of encouragement as they waited for the chance to play again.

“I don’t think anyone should have to end like this. It’s just really sad,” said Arianna Tammaro, a junior outfielder and captain on the Corona del Sol softball team.

Duran said that although she has had three seasons off competition, “This year was my senior year and it was supposed to be fun. It was such a fun group of girls to play with.”.

Ray’s last game she coached was a 10-1 victory over Mesa Mountain View on March 6. She finishes with a career mark of 518-228 over 24 years.

“If that ends up being my last game then so be it,” she said. “I went off on a high note and I feel like I have had a successful career and I love my kids and I love what I do.”

As for fall sports, the AIA has not discussed any cancellations or postponements.

“Our number one priority will continue to be health and safety, and we will continue to work closely with public health officials to make the best decisions for kids, families, and our school communities,” Ducey said in a statement.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix