With the high school track and field season currently in limbo due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, area coaches, including Joplin’s Brandon Taute, Carl Junction’s Mark Robertson, Webb City’s Dustin Miller and Carthage’s Andy Youngworth, are patiently waiting for the opportunity to once again do what they love — coach.
With schools closed for the time being, coaches are unable to hold practices, and prep athletes are not allowed to utilize on-campus facilities.
As a result, athletes are working out on their own or in small groups while the current spring sports season is in a holding pattern. Coaches said they’ve attempted to provide some general direction to their athletes from afar, including recommended workout plans.
“We can’t meet with the kids and they can’t be on school property, so we’re giving the kids some example workouts they can do, based on the events they’re in,” Taute said. “We’re trying to give them some workouts that resemble something we’d normally be doing. Right now, we’re just trying to make sure everybody is staying in shape and they’re taking care of their bodies so when we come back they don’t have to rebuild that stuff.”
“The last we saw the kids was just before spring break,” Robertson said. “Each coach provided their kids with a workout, and we’ve posted some stuff online since then. We can’t do much for them. We’re just telling them to get out and run.”
Miller and Youngworth had similar assessments.
“We’re sending out suggested workouts through a group text,” Miller said. “We’re encouraging them to stay active. And I’m encouraging them to be safe and be smart while they’re getting together, and we’re making sure the parents are okay with it. We’re trying to make the most of an interesting situation.”
“We can’t have any organized activities, but I want my kids to stay fit,” Youngworth said. “We want them to be safe. You have to error on the side of caution. This is a serious event none of us have ever encountered.”
Athletes who compete in a running event can pound the pavement in their neighborhoods, but that’s not the case for athletes who compete in field events.
“The field events are tough,” Taute noted. “But there are drills they can do. They can work on their technique.”
“Even pole vaulters can do some drills in their backyard,” Miller added. “Throwers can all work on footwork and their approach. The ones who want to be great will find a way.”
Carthage athletes have been able to train at the city-owned K.E. Baker Stadium.
“We’ve told the kids if they get a chance to go down to K.E. Baker great, but we want their parents involved in that conversation,” Youngworth said. “If the parents say their kid isn’t going anywhere, that’s fine.”
All four coaches said they’re holding out hope that at least some of the spring season can be salvaged. Practices are tentatively scheduled to resume on April 4. Until then, area coaches will continue to be unable to do what they love—coach their kids.
“It’s been tough,” Taute said. “Obviously this is a place we’ve never been before. It’s tough to not be around the kids. We know they’re going through some stuff besides the athletics standpoint. You want to be there for the kids. We’ve been calling and texting them to make sure they’re okay. Hopefully, we’ll get to restart in a couple of weeks.”
“You do miss being around the kids,” Robertson said. “Track is such a relaxed atmosphere. The kids know they are there to work hard, but we also have a lot of fun. I miss the interaction with the coaches and athletes.”
“I feel bad for the kids and I feel terrible for the seniors,” Robertson added. “But we have to keep the kids safe. I know the higher-ups will make the right decision. I would forgo the season as long as I know all of the kids are going to come out of this 100 percent healthy.”
Miller had a similar feeling.
“I’m missing the kids for sure,” Miller said. “It is what it is. I’m trying not to dwell on anything negative. It’s a bummer, but that’s how it goes. It helps us focus on things that are more important. And it will help us appreciate the things we don’t have right now.”
Added Youngworth: “I ran into one of our kids the other day, and she said, ‘I really miss track.’ It’s been hard. There are so many unknown variables in this. I feel bad for our seniors. Everybody’s in limbo. You just have to go with the flow. When we do restart, I think the kids will appreciate it even more.”
Youngworth added several of his athletes recently handed out meals to area residents through the local YMCA.
“I think it’s good for the kids to get out and do some community service,” Youngworth said. “We’ve got people in the community who are wondering how they’re going to pay rent or buy groceries. So this whole thing puts a lot of things in perspective.”
Miller summed up the current mindset of all those involved.
“I hope MSHSAA makes up their mind soon,” he said. “Right now, our kids feel like they still have a season. We’ll wait and see. It would be awesome to have a state championship meet in June.”