No one ever said coaching was easy.
But those guiding spring sports programs in Jackson County are in unchartered waters, as are others around the region and country.
The coronavirus has shut down so much in the past several days, including schools.
With the closures, it has led to some challenging times on the coaching scene.
Baseball, softball, tennis and track and field teams, sanctioned by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission, should either have had their seasons underway or on the cusp of doing so.
Instead, the respective squads at Ravenswood High, Ripley High School, Ravenswood Middle and Ripley Middle are at a standstill with no idea as to when, or if, they will see the fields, courts or tracks in this spring of 2020.
Ripley girls track and field coach Krystle Cunningham was out for a run when contacted about the situation.
Running, no doubt, helps relieve some of the stress while dealing with this difficult and delicate situation.
Ripley is the reigning two-time defending Class AAA state champions and with the presence of senior standouts Tori Starcher, who is bound for Stanford, and Allison Fields the Lady Vikings entered this season as a solid contender for a three-peat.
“It’s definitely tough,” Cunningham said. “I just told the kids you just can’t worry about what we can't control. We just have to stay positive.”
Cunningham said her team members have been given workouts to follow, though not mandatory.
“We just want to be prepared if we do get the chance (to resume the season),” she said.
Spring for baseball and softball coaches can be frustrating at times to begin with when the weather doesn’t cooperate, but county coaches would take wet grounds and postponed games any day over having to tackle the unknown.
“It stinks big time,” said Ravenswood veteran baseball coach Wes Swain. “You work all year for this.”
Swain did get to enjoy one game with his team – a scrimmage with defending Class AAA state champion St. Albans.
On the team’s way to the game, Swain was hearing that things could be delayed or stopped completely.
His worst nightmare turned out to be true.
“I’ve got four seniors,” said Swain. Those four are Sam Sturm, Hayden Swain, Kinley Hickman and Austin Anderson.
Hayden Swain is the head coach’s second oldest of four sons. His oldest, Chase, had his second season of Glenville State College baseball wiped out due to the virus scare.
“He said, ‘Dad, I was seeing 23 and 24 year old guys cry,’” Wes Swain said.
The Red Devil head coach’s youngest two sons – Brady and Evan – are in the eighth and seventh grade, respectively, and play middle school baseball.
Coaches aren’t allowed to work with their athletes, but Swain has given his players workouts they can do on their own as individuals to stay in some type of baseball shape.
“I hate it for all of these kids,” he said. “But I told them, ‘If this is the worst thing you’ll deal with in life, then you are going to be all right.'”
Ripley head baseball coach Shane Casto hardly knows what to do with himself during this delay.
“I’m trying to think when was the last time I was off in March,” he said laughing. “There’s just not a whole lot we can do.”
Casto was heading into a season with two seniors on board.
One of those – Broedy Boyce – is hopeful of playing college baseball.
The other – Austin Boggess – is coming off of an outstanding wrestling season.
“I’ve just told our kids to do things on their own and try to stay in control of things,” he said.
When the official word came that the season was being stopped, Casto was having a meeting with his team.
He said it was tough seeing the kids leave the field and head their various ways, wondering if he will ever get to be with the group again.
“It was a surreal moment,” he said.
“It’s out of our control. But it’s bigger than the game of baseball.”
Veteran Ripley head girls softball coach Kenny Swisher has a young team in 2020 and was looking forward to the challenge of getting them up and running.
“We were ready to start the season. We’ve got seven freshmen and were ready to let get their feet wet,” said Swisher, who guided the program to the Class AAA state championship in 2009.
He’s frustrated, but understands.
“They’ve done the right thing. They had to do that,” he said of state officials closing schools and stopping all extra-curricular activities.
Swisher said he hopes things will get back to some type of normalcy in order to salvage at least part of the season.
Sam Hilton, Ravenswood’s head boys and girls tennis coach, is doing his best to stay positive while being away from the courts.
“I’m so frustrated,” said Hilton. “We had done all of our challenge matches. We had seeded our kids and were ready to have them challenged. So we were zooming along for the season and then it abruptly stopped.
“On the girls side, we’ve got a lot of seniors.”
Jillian Throneberry, Annabelle Alfred, Skylar Varney, and Emma Weekley were gearing up for the season of 2020 when things got shut down.
Hilton has one senior on the boys side in Ethan Rawson.
Ravenswood was the Class AA-A runner-up last year.
“Hopefully, we will be able to get going again soon,” Hilton said. “Even if they have to extend the season out, it would be nice.”
With schools being closed, it also stopped archery season at the county schools.