News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Coaches reflect on lost spring season

Jeff Larson had assembled what may have been the most talented team of track boys in Sisters High School many years with a real shot to make a lot of noise at the state meet. The season ended without a single report of a starter’s gun after Governor Kate Brown officially shut down schools across Oregon due to the coronavirus on Wednesday, April 8.

“From an athletic standpoint,” said Athletic Director Gary Thorson, “this has no doubt been extremely tough and difficult on our athletes, their parents, and our coaches. I saw a lot of hard work and passion being put forth in both the offseason and this spring during the first few weeks before we got shut down.”

Larson and many of his coaching peers reflected on the lost season over the past week.

“I am sad for our kids on many levels,” he said. “There are individual goals which won’t be met, personal records that won’t happen, and most importantly, the unique lessons an athlete learns when they work hard with goals in mind.”

In his final face-to-face practice with the track kids, Larson had a message for his athletes.

“I can tell you that on the day of our last practice, that Thursday, I had a gut feeling the season wouldn’t go on and that it would be our last time sitting together on the grass at the beginning of practice,” he said.

I took a moment to encourage the kids. My advice to them was, ‘We can’t control what comes at us, we can only control how we react to it.’ Advice as old as the hills, but I think it needed to be said at that moment. We went on and had a great practice that day too. Just amazing. The kids felt what was coming too and they just put it aside and threw themselves into the tasks of the day. Only kids can devote themselves to the moment with such abandon.”

When asked about how the kids seem to be responding he said, “I’m hearing very little. Mostly it is hearsay through my daughter, a junior on the team, and social media. What I am hearing is that the seniors are frustrated and angry. The younger kids like my daughter are sad but seem to be rolling with it fairly well.

He continued, “There’s talk of competing in the summer if the restrictions are lifted. And there’s the optimism of youth: ‘We’ll do great next year’ — and stuff like that. That’s why I love working with kids.”

Equestrian head coach Annie Winter said, “It’s so sad. Our athletes have been practicing since mid-November and only got to perform in one of three meets. They are all bummed.”

Alan Von Stein, girls tennis coach had high hopes for the season with 25 girls on the team, including 11 seniors.

“We were set for success and even had good weather,” he said. “We were showing improvement every day and our new kids were picking up the sport at a rapid pace, so the season was looking pretty exciting.”

Von Stein has taken the time to learn more about coaching and share what he can with his players.

“I have continued to improve my coaching education during this time, he said. “I have also sent out five videos to the girls that include instruction on some of the skills that we hoped that they would learn.”

As for the players, Von Stein said, “They have been pretty silent. I am sure that the unknown can be daunting for them, just like it is for many of us adults.”

Baseball coach Kramer Croisant echoed other coaches, saying, “This is a tough time for everyone for many reasons, but it is also a great learning opportunity for our student athletes. Life is about how you respond to adversity and challenges.”

Like his players, Croisant is disappointed. “We had the opportunity, I think, to have a pretty special season and create some great memories for the guys,” he said.

Neil Fendall, who took over the girls softball team for 2020, is juggling the perspective of being not only a coach, but also the father of three athletes, two in high school.

“I’m handling it by trying to be there for my immediate family first,” he said. “We are active in many sports so our family has been adapting. Plus, we have a senior who is missing his last season of high school sports.”

Fendall had words of wisdom to share as well. “Like any crisis, we are reminded to keep things in perspective. We have the benefit of living in a place that allows space and the capacity to actually slow down,” he said. “As parents, teachers, coaches, students and athletes, we get caught up in such breakneck speeds that we forget to take time to reflect, contemplate, and be present. I hope everyone can really pay attention to what you’re learning right now. Take stock of what is most important to you and ask yourself what items might you be willing to sacrifice in order to experience more quality in your life.”


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