If you have ever played organized sports, you have likely heard coaches work to motivate players by telling them to "Play like it's the last game you will ever play." Head coach Josh Hart and the Paris Eagles baseball team were in the middle of a game in Perryville when the first news of a temporary shutdown of the season started filtering through.
It started out as a couple of weeks, then a month. Then the word came down that schools would do distance learning for the remainder of the school year. Three days later, the Arkansas Activities Association sent out a press release that stated, in part, "After multiple conversations with the Arkansas Department of Health, the Governor's Office, the Arkansas Department of Education and with the announcement of the closure of Arkansas schools through the end of the school year, all remaining AAA spring activities, state championships, AHSCA Coaches Clinic, and All-Star games have been canceled."
This was a significant life change for athletes and coaches alike, as the numerous hours they usually spent together and outside would be traded in for home quarantine. Paris was off to a much stronger start to the season, and even with the rest canceled, were within two wins of last season's total. Hart's first words were like those of all the area coaches, stating, "I hate this for all of the kids who worked so hard, but especially my seniors." Many of those seniors were starters for the Eagles, some in their first year holding a significant role.
Both Paris and Scranton softball programs were expected to be contenders, not just at the local level, but contenders in their classification for a State Championship push this spring. Now they, along with the others, will have to hope for a chance to play summer ball.
County Line Head Baseball Coach Ryan Castleman fell in love with the game through coaching it. He said, "I miss it so, so bad. I haven't cleared out all of the dates from my phone and I get notifications to remind me what I was missing." Playing in the A Classification, the Indians had all the elements to make their own title run. They had three key pieces on the mound, including Caleb Robberson, who has already signed to play at the next level. And then there are players like Dagon McCombs, who is a senior that only plays baseball. Castleman said he was ready to contribute this year. Another victim of this shutdown is the record book, where Robberson was expected to take a run at several school records.
Jordan Devine, the Lady Eagles Head Volleyball Coach, usually has teams in the middle of their Junior Olympic (J.O.) seasons. In fact, she said they would have just completed their final tournament. The J.O. program is a key piece to program success. Devine has been sending workouts to players and is able to keep in touch. She said the pandemic will undoubtedly affect the fall, but hopefully in a minimal way. Devine is married to Joe, who was in his first year as an
Eagle assistant coach with baseball and football. Football is usually well into their spring workouts and preparing for a spring football game. They will now do workouts on their own, anticipating the day they can come together to prepare for the fall season.
Most coaches found some positives in all of the chaos. Castleman said it will certainly reward those athletes who are self-starters and putting in work right now. The Devine’s are enjoying the time that is usually spent passing at school or at games while one of them is coaching. "It has been good to spend time with family. We are all so competitive, this has made us slow down for a little while."
One thing is sure, when the day comes that the athletes and the coaches get to go back to their normal, we will all be ready and fill bleachers and cheer them on.