Adversity can come in many forms and now, all anyone can do is learn from it and choose how to respond. The Lake Sun reached out to spring coaches throughout the Lake area and invited them to share their thoughts on a season that never was.

It is a season that will be left blank in the record books.

Just a few months ago athletes and coaches started to get to work, preparing for their spring sport. Their efforts were garnered towards hopes and dreams of a fulfilling spring, whether it was the daily grind to continually improve, work towards a college scholarship or simply enjoy the company of others who shared their interests.

Then a pandemic came along.

A virus they had nothing to do with and was completely out of their control gripped the nation and swept across the world, changing life as we know it. Meeting on the golf course, track, soccer field, baseball diamond or tennis court quickly turned into virtual team meetings and individual workouts at home. Then the season was completely cancelled before any competitions could take place and athletes and coaches not only lost an opportunity to compete, but seniors lost the opportunity to create precious memories as they wrap up their high school careers. Those seasons would have recently been wrapping up if they could have taken place.

Adversity can come in many forms and now, all anyone can do is learn from it and choose how to respond. The Lake Sun reached out to spring coaches throughout the Lake area and invited them to share their thoughts on a season that never was. Here is what they had to say.

CAMDENTON

John McNabb, Girls Track and Field Head Coach

Q: As a coach, how do you begin to process something like this as the leader of your program and what has that discussion been like with your student-athletes as you continue to guide them? Anything you were especially looking forward to this year that, unfortunately, will not get to happen?

A: I have emailed and texted all of my athletes several times to encourage them, and to continue their conditioning as I don’t feel like effort is ever wasted. In 44 years of coaching I have never seen anything like this. It is especially disheartening for our seniors, after competing for three years and establishing the relationships coaches have with them. To have the anticipation for a senior season, practice for two weeks and then put it on hold and see the year cancelled is really tough for everyone. Often, there are some great moments for each senior that will be lost in all this. Some of our seniors were really looking forward to that last chance to break a school record or making all-conference or all-district, or even getting to the state track meet after coming close last year.

Q: Were there any key lessons or takeaways that can come from times like these that you can relay to them?

A: As a coach you always stress that we want to improve every chance we get, but sometimes we lose chances because of different reasons. I don’t think it occurred to any of us we could lose a whole season like we have.

Q: What is the message for seniors and the student-athletes who will have a chance to return? When the time comes, how will your program look to bounce back?

A: For our seniors, I would like for them to remember the great times, the relationships they built with coaches, teammates, and athletes from other schools, and have pride in their accomplishments. Also, several got to experience being part of a state championship team, finishing third at state another year and winning two district championships.

Finally, I do worry how this lost season will be remembered by our younger athletes. They have so many other things pulling at them every day, and I hope they all come back next year with a determination to make up for that year they lost. We have a great group of young athletes who can do some memorable things in the seasons they have left.

Kirk Richey, Camdenton Tennis Head Coach

Q: As a coach, how do you begin to process something like this as the leader of your program and what has that discussion been like with your student-athletes as you continue to guide them? Anything you were especially looking forward to this year that, unfortunately, will not get to happen?

A: As a coach, I am still trying to process the loss of our spring tennis season. I can't imagine how my seniors and their family members are feeling during this unprecedented time. The most important date on the schedule that I look forward to every season is our Senior Night, and for that not to happen in a traditional manner is totally unreal to me. I will miss the face-to-face interaction that we experience with players and families. Not to have the opportunity  to honor my seniors is truly disheartening as a coach. 

Q: Were there any key lessons or takeaways that can come from times like these that you can relay to them?

A: I would encourage my seniors to take this as a learning opportunity. I know that it is not fair that they are experiencing this event. I don't think there is any way to make it better for them other than to let them know that I will support them in any way possible. My seniors need to know that they can reach me at any time for help getting through this time away from school and the sport they love.

Q: What is the message for seniors and the student-athletes who will have a chance to return? When the time comes, how will your program look to bounce back?

A: I am in daily contact with both the boys and girls tennis teams via email and Remind messaging. I provide tennis drills, equipment suggestions, footwork activities and strategy ideas. Also, our strength coach sends daily workouts for all athletes. I would hope that when we get the approval to return to play, my tennis athletes will be more than ready to hit the courts and be thrilled to have the opportunity to once again play the game they love.   

Final Thoughts

I cannot tell you how sorry Coach Ted Houx and I are for what has happened to this senior season of tennis for our amazing student-athletes. We are extremely proud of everything the senior players have accomplished, what type of leaders they have become, and most importantly, what type of people they have grown into. We both  know they will accomplish great things in life and we are proud to have had the opportunity to be their coach.  

Nick Bruck, Camdenton Boys Track and Field Head Coach

As you know, our seniors’ track season has been cut short due to coronavirus. We had 10 senior boys on our track and field team this spring that I am so proud of for dedicating their time to our Laker track and field program. Each one of our seniors gave great effort, and for that, I am grateful. I have no doubt that these young men will go on and do great things because they are willing to work!

Jason Horne, Camdenton Boys Golf Head Coach

I have three seniors on the Laker golf team- Preston Kelling, Treyvor Watson and Spencer Melville. All three of them are a huge and core part of the varsity golf team. Spencer has been our number one guy for the past several years and has experienced several years of postseason experience, from district to state. Preston has been “Mr. Consistency” and has improved every year he has played. It is a huge disappointment that the entire season was canceled, I believed he would have had a breakthrough year in advancing in the postseason this year. Treyvor is our grinder.  He has a great game, but always had to grind it out each time out there. All three guys are exceptional golfers and will continue playing golf for years to come, either competitive or recreational.  

VERSAILLES

Jason Ollison, Baseball Head Coach

Q: As a coach, how do you begin to process something like this as the leader of your program and what has that discussion been like with your student-athletes as you continue to guide them? Anything you were especially looking forward to this year that, unfortunately, will not get to happen?

A: As a coach in this situation, I think the most important thing is to remain positive moving forward. We have tried to explain to our athletes that the pause will not last forever and while it is unfortunate that we are not getting to do what we love to do, it is not the worst thing that could happen. We had a lot of great things going on, that as a staff we had begun to implement last summer and throughout the school year. A lot of our pitchers and some of our position players have been working really hard to increase their arm strength and we had started some leadership things that were really helping build our team cohesion. It is a shame that we won’t be able to see the results this spring, but I firmly believe that the work that we have been putting in will benefit our athletes in the future.

Q: Were there any key lessons or takeaways that can come from times like these that you can relay to them?

A: The most important thing that we are trying to get across to our athletes is that even the though the “rules of the game” have changed, we can only change the way we have to play. If we spend the time dwelling on the fact that we aren’t getting to play, we will be wasting our time. We have to figure out how we can use this “pause” to reevaluate where we are headed and put a roadmap in place on how we want to get there.

Q: What is the message for seniors and the student-athletes who will have a chance to return? When the time comes, how will your program look to bounce back?

A: For all of our athletes, we keep trying to put the entire situation in perspective. There are a lot of people around the world, and in our community, that are dealing with things a lot worse than not getting to play their spring sports season. If not getting a Senior Night is the worst thing that happens to you, even this year, you have had a pretty good year. I think in times like this, sometimes we spend too much time dwelling on what we are not getting to do or have, when we can use the time to set new goals and reach new places that we want to be in the future. For our program, we will keep moving in a positive direction and our seniors will always be a big part of our program moving forward. Our guys know how much we care about them and that we want what is best for them. This crazy experience will not change that.

Aaron Allen, Versailles Track and Field Head Coach

Q: As a coach, how do you begin to process something like this as the leader of your program and what has that discussion been like with your student-athletes as you continue to guide them? Anything you were especially looking forward to this year that, unfortunately, will not get to happen?

A: There are a lot of things we were looking forward to this year that were either taken away or put on the back burner for the future. With this being my first season as the Head Coach for the Versailles Tigers, I was extremely excited to see how well my process and coaching would fit in here. But beyond me, our entire staff was looking forward to the successful year our student-athletes were going to have. We have 10 seniors that compete and each one of these kids were going to do great things. I know all coaches say that and we have no numbers to compare, but I am telling you, this was going to be one of the most successful years for Versailles Track and Field. One of the ways that I am attempting to stay in touch with our seniors and show them respect and recognize them for their efforts is by having an online track banquet every day until each senior has been talked about. Our kids, parents and community have responded well to these Facebook Live events. I love them because our kids get way more recognition than they would sitting in an auditorium with 100 people. This is a great way to showcase our student-athletes for all to see.

Q: Were there any key lessons or takeaways that can come from times like these that you can relay to them?

A: Here is the deal, no one can relate to what these kids are going through. I can say it all I want, "I understand," or " I get it," but we don't. I still get to come back here and coach. There is always another season for me. Right now, there is no season and we have no answers for other seasons. 

What I do know is that when we have a vision or plan, we see a straight path to those goals. God has other plans. He makes that path go up and down and side to side. These are the struggles, adversity, and lessons that we must battle through to reach those goals in life. If you don't struggle or fail to get to those goals, then you have learned nothing. 

Right now, we do not know why this has happened to us or our kids, but I am excited to see what type of kids this situation creates. In future years I want these seniors to come back and tell me stories of how they have relived this situation to get them through life or motivated another individual.

Q: What is the message for seniors and the student-athletes who will have a chance to return? When the time comes, how will your program look to bounce back?

A: We now know that there will be no return for our current seniors. For the ones who are continuing their athletic careers past high school, I just want to say, use this to propel you forward. You have been given another chance that others will not get. Do not take it for granted. To our returning student-athletes, us coaches say it everyday, "Train, practice, and play like it might be your last because you never know if it will be." Maybe now, this saying will be taken a little more seriously. Not everything is in our hands. Don't take your opportunity to play a game for granted.

SCHOOL OF THE OSAGE

Travis Squire, Osage Golf Head Coach

Q: As a coach, how do you begin to process something like this as the leader of your program and what has that discussion been like with your student-athletes as you continue to guide them? Anything you were especially looking forward to this year that, unfortunately, will not get to happen?

A: As a coach and teacher, my heart goes out to our kids. I know that this pandemic has caused a great deal of worry, disruption and uncertainty for all of us. I know we will get through this ordeal. I hope my students take seriously the need to maintain physical distancing for the sake of all and I very much look forward to seeing them next year.

As a coach, I feel particularly sorry for our athletes who have trained, dreamed and looked forward to competing this season. My heart goes out to the seniors who may be missing their last opportunity to compete in their sport at this level. Golf is a life-long sport, but there is something special about competing as a team that cannot be replaced. 

I was particularly excited about this season. This was my first season as OHS boys golf coach, and I know we have talent on the team. I feel we had good opportunities this year to win at the conference level and beyond as a team, and a number of individuals that had their eyes set on returning to the state competition.

Q: Were there any key lessons or takeaways that can come from times like these that you can relay to them?

A: My advice to my athletes and students is to try and make the best of this situation. If you can take a negative and turn just some of it into a positive, you will be better. Focus on what is in your control, explore a new hobby, read a book (or two) and continue to work on your health and fitness from home. Come out of this a stronger and better person.

Q: What is the message for seniors and the student-athletes who will have a chance to return? When the time comes, how will your program look to bounce back?

A: At this time, I do not know of anything that will prevent my athletes from golfing. I hope they continue to play throughout this spring and summer and enjoy being out of the house. (Golf provides plenty of opportunity for social distancing). Both the boys and girls golf teams are full of talented players, 9-12. We will regroup and look to next year. We will all be excited to be back at it for the 2020-2021 school year/seasons.

Miriam Hill, Osage Girls Track and Field Head Coach

Q: As a coach, how do you begin to process something like this as the leader of your program and what has that discussion been like with your student-athletes as you continue to guide them? Anything you were especially looking forward to this year that, unfortunately, will not get to happen?

A: As a coach, this cancellation of spring sports is very tough to process. Obviously, we cannot dwell on what has happened, we have to move forward. We scheduled a Google Hangout with our track and field athletes the evening the information was released. Our message for all of our athletes was, what can you do now to get prepared for the next season. We have been sending out daily workout plans and motivational quotes via Remind and Hudl. We will continue to do that until we are allowed to be face-to-face again.

My biggest disappointment about the loss of the season is not getting to see the improvement that happens throughout a season. What I love most as a coach is watching my athletes achieve their personal goals. There is nothing better than seeing pure exhaustion in their bodies, but the look of pure joy when they complete a challenging 12x400-meter workout in negative splits or finish a race with a great new personal record.  

Q: Were there any key lessons or takeaways that can come from times like these that you can relay to them?

A: This time of our lives is one small time frame. We will learn from this and come out stronger and better. It is what we do with this experience that will allow us to be successful in the future. This is where each of our athletes will have to develop self-motivation or continue to use their existing self-motivation to push themselves each and every day when they are on their own. That is what will make them strong as individuals and strengthen our team as a whole.

Q: What is the message for seniors and the student-athletes who will have a chance to return? When the time comes, how will your program look to bounce back?

A: We will bounce back! It is important that each of our athletes continue to work out and prepare for their next season whether that be fall, winter, or next spring.

I told our seniors to look back at what allowed them to be successful at the high school level for the last three years. Use that drive and determination to continue to be successful in all aspects of life. Right now, what has happened really stinks. What they do with this experience is what will help them to continue to improve in all aspects of their life. Several are planning to compete at the collegiate level so it is important that they maintain their fitness levels so they are prepared for next year.

For those that get to return, it is important that they look ahead to next year and stay focused and motivated to continue doing the workouts that are sent each day.

Jason Long, Osage Soccer Head Coach

Q: As a coach, how do you begin to process something like this as the leader of your program and what has that discussion been like with your student-athletes as you continue to guide them? Anything you were especially looking forward to this year that, unfortunately, will not get to happen?

A: I'm sure my feelings toward our current situation is similar to many coaches that have spring programs who just lost a complete season. It feels a little like being the victim of a hit-and-run. It is still a little surreal because of how swift and definite the decisions to end sports were, but it's totally understandable and just like the flow of a soccer game, we need to adjust to the situation and find ways to overcome our obstacles.  

The Osage girls were disappointed when we got the news that our jamboree was cancelled, but the discussion since then has been very positive and upbeat. There was an energy in our training sessions leading up to the season that had the girls excited to compete this year. Many of our players are still doing individual training from home that we send out weekly through social media, Remind and email.  The girls have used video conferencing and chat rooms to post their workouts to each other and their motivation is contagious.  

To be honest, I'm glad MSHSAA and our school district used small increments of time to extend the closure dates, because for me it was like dangling a carrot out there as an objective to reach. Now that we know the season is over, we have summer camps and offseason training to look forward to. My hope is that we take full advantage of all the opportunities there will be once this stay-in-place order is lifted.

What I was looking forward to most this season was the opportunity to start building the soccer culture in the high school girls program where people could get excited to be part of what we are doing here at Osage. While we didn't play a single game, I believe it hasn't been a total loss because I get regular emails and phone calls from parents and people from the community who share their support and want to be a part of Soccer Nation. The girls are excited about playing soccer, and I'm starting to see some leadership rise from within the squad. These actions motivate me as a coach and drive me to prepare the best program I can for out student-athletes.

Q: Were there any key lessons or takeaways that can come from times like these that you can relay to them?

A: The key take away I have already shared with my parents and players is pretty simple- we never know what life has in store for us. We have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves, and we cannot put off until tomorrow what we should do today!

Q: What is the message for seniors and the student-athletes who will have a chance to return? When the time comes, how will your program look to bounce back?

A: I was reading your Senior Spotlight on Nevaeh Henley and I don't quite know how to convey my feelings in words, but I was definitely inspired by the message to her teammates. For never getting to coach her in a game, I'm pretty sure she will be the standard that I use to measure my seniors in the future. I guess my message to the seniors would be, while it wasn't the soccer experience we were anticipating, it was definitely a soccer experience we will never forget. This season by MSHSAA standards lived up to the mission of teaching life lessons through sports or at least the spirit of sports. I'm proud of your growth in leadership and look forward to following your careers after high school. I only had four seniors this year and I'd like to wish Hong, Jessica, Yamili and Nevaeh the best of luck and congratulate them on graduating from Osage.

As for the underclassmen, I believe we share a feeling of unfinished business and will look forward to picking up where we left off in March. I am lucky to have a great squad of players coming back and can't wait to add our incoming freshmen players. The question is not how do we bounce back from this experience, but when do we get to hit the ground running!