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NET school systems shut down spring sports for two weeks

Douglas Fritz • Mar 16, 2020 at 4:43 PM

Kingsport City Schools and Sullivan County Schools suspended spring sports Sunday because of the national health emergency, and Dobyns-Bennett athletic director Frankie DeBusk said he understands the decision.

“Athletics are very, very important, but in the grand scheme of things they need to take a back seat to everything else going on at the regional and national level,” DeBusk said Monday.

Kingsport and Sullivan County suspended extracurricular and athletic activities through March 27. Johnson City Schools followed suit Monday with cancellation of practices and games through April 6, leaving Northeast Tennessee’s high school sports scene basically barren.

Washington County schools canceled all activities until further notice. Daniel Boone athletic director Danny Good noted that coaches cannot organize team practices outside of school facilities.

“The student athletes are encouraged to continue to condition their bodies specific to their individual sport,” Good said in a release. “However, this will need to be done under the direction of their guardians as permitted. We all are committed to providing what is best for our students. I stand with you in your frustrations for this pause in the early part of spring athletics. This setback will not discourage our overall purpose as an athletic department of competing at the highest level.”

DeBusk said it’s a tough time for all involved.

“It’s very unfortunate for the kids, coaches and teams,” he said.

Science Hill athletic director Keith Turner said the April 6 designation was basically just a starting point.

“It gives it enough time for people to plan,” Turner said. “Everybody is in scramble mode, planning what they can do for the kids while they’re out — academics, food, a little bit of everything.”

Human nature leads people to want to know what the plan is going forward. Unfortunately, looking very far into the future is a casualty to the national emergency as well.

“No one seems to know at this point,” said DeBusk. “But we will support the decisions made by the folks higher up than we are.”

Baseball and softball players, particularly pitchers, can continue to throw on their own.

“I would like to think our coaches have already instilled that in the kids long before anything like this happened,” DeBusk noted. “If you’re going to be successful, you have get practice time when the coaches aren’t standing over you. Kids who desire to be successful are already practicing on their own.”

But, DeBusk said, being successful on the field isn’t the No. 1 priority at this time.

“We all want to win, but athletics have to take a step back with what is going on nationwide,” he said.

Still, it’s a hard thing for high school athletes who according to national health experts aren’t in the high-risk group.

“I know they are disappointed,” DeBusk said. “I remember back in my day, playing high school or college sports. This would have been disturbing to me. But no one has gone through this before. It could be harmful if we don’t have a plan and abide by that plan.”

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