In some ways, Westland track and field coach Tim Eckard believes the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic compares to the 2009-10 school year when a failed levy forced the cancellation of fall sports in the South-Western City School District and threatened to wipe out winter and spring sports.
Spring athletes and coaches at Westland remain hopeful that a shortened season will be offered. All spring sports are postponed through at least May 1 because the OHSAA is following Gov. Mike DeWine's stay-at-home order.
Baseball, softball, lacrosse and track and field athletes had been practicing with their respective teams for more than two weeks when the OHSAA announced a mandatory no-contact period would begin March 17.
"The closest we have come to this is the year we didn't pass the levy and (the school district) did away with fall sports," said Eckard, who is in his 19th season as head coach and 29th overall with the program. "We were thinking if it didn't pass in November, we wouldn't have track. The levy passed and we had spring sports, so this is unlike anything I've ever been through. It's the worst thing as far as impacting the kids, impacting school. It's devastating."
While all teams are prohibited from holding practices or competitions during the no-contact period, coaches may send athletes suggested home workouts.
"It doesn't feel right," Eckard said. "... I'm constantly looking at the clock thinking we should be at practice. I love this time of the year. I'm missing it really bad."
Eckard and his assistants have remained in contact with their athletes, providing workout plans while also checking on their well-being. Although the athletes have received conditioning plans, Eckard noted fitness remains a concern if a truncated season is held.
"We have sent them workouts, but we can't work with them and they can't work in large groups," Eckard said. "Realistically, if half do it, I'd be surprised. It's different when you can't be there to coach the corrections."
Brent Shannon is in his second season as baseball coach. The Cougars finished 9-17 a year ago and with a strong returning nucleus, Shannon was expecting to improve on that record.
Shannon has not only provided workout plans for his players, but he also has been a part of an effort to deliver meals and groceries to Westland families.
"I communicate with the guys quite often to make sure they stay up on all their homework and all their projects they have to do," Shannon said. "I check on them to see if they need anything grocery-wise for the family. We're all staying optimistic for a season even if it's shortened."
Fourth-year softball coach Sarah Shellenbarger said her team showed potential during the preseason. The Cougars held practices from Feb. 24 through March 12, the day before the OHSAA announced that the spring sports season was postponed.
"We're young, but the kids that we have who have played before have shown such great leadership," Shellenbarger said. "They've really been trying to bring the younger ones under their wings and help them grow. The improvement that I saw from our first official day to March 12 was considerable."
Shellenbarger is hoping to have at least a shortened season for the seniors.
"I'm optimistic," she said. "Hopefully, we can get somewhat of an abbreviated season in May. I totally understand why they are pushing social distancing and we need everybody healthy, but I'm remaining optimistic. It would be awesome for the seniors."
Shellenbarger has remained in contact with her players to provide updates on the situation and also offer training drills to work on at home. She added some players have remained active by training with family members.
"Hopefully, when we can get back together again, it will just be picking up where we left off," she said.
Drew Curtiss, a junior catcher and first baseman on the baseball team, also remains optimistic.
"I'm absolutely hopeful," he said. "I know the rest of the guys on the team are as well. It's a big deal for us, especially the seniors. That's really the worst part about this whole situation. I feel horrible for them if this does not happen. Something would be better than nothing, whether it's four or five league games or a big tournament at the end. Something."
Curtiss was looking forward to having his brother Dean, a freshman outfielder, join him on varsity. They have remained active by setting up a net and tee in their garage for batting drills.
"I know a lot of the guys are motivated to stay in shape," Drew Curtiss said.