SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)- Friday, March 13, 2020 will forever be known as the day the sports world came to a screeching halt.
As the spread of the novel coronavirus hit the NBA, the sports world took less than 24 hours to cancel or postpone every sport from local to national to even worldwide.
The South Dakota class ‘B’ girl’s state basketball tournament was one of the last live sporting events to be postponed or canceled.
South Dakota High School Activities Association Executive Director, Daniel Swartos, said the decision to postpone the tournament was not easy.
“Postponing the class ‘B’ girl’s tournament was a difficult decision, but we have to rely on advice from the people who have the highest degree of knowledge on the current conditions in South Dakota- the CDC, our Department of Health, and our Governor’s Office,” Swartos said.
While they knew the decision was very tough, the SDHSAA knew it was the right decision, based on what was happening around the state and country.
“Everything was changing very rapidly at the time and we made decisions to the best of our ability based on the information we were receiving,” Swartos said.
From that point on, the majority of the country began social distancing as schools, restaurants and much more began closing.
The entire country went on alert to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The postponement of the remaining five state basketball tournaments and the start of the spring sports season, seemed to be an easy decision… but it wasn’t.
“When considering events that mean a lot to many kids, it is never easy. However, with school closures being what they are, the decisions so far have been natural decisions,” Swartos said. Our mission revolves around education-based athletics and activities and the schools are the backbone of our Association, so school closure and athletic/activity closure generally go hand in hand.”
On Tuesday, March 24, Governor Kristi Noem announced a set of guidelines for schools in the state of South Dakota as Noem asked that all schools remain closed until May. It didn’t take long for the SDHSAA to respond as they suspended all sports and activities until May 4.
The next step for the SDHSAA is a meeting on Friday, March 27 to discuss how they’ll approach the remainder of the 2020 season. The main two topics will be how to handle the state finals of the winter sports season and what to do with the abbreviated spring season.
“I think the atmosphere at Friday’s Board meeting will be serious and deliberate because these are serious conversations and decisions,” Swartos said. “Friday will be a chance for our Board to have an in-depth conversation regarding Spring activities and the events that have been postponed. Our staff will provide them with a general idea of what both could look like given the current state of school closures and CDC guidelines.”
Friday’s decision will not be easy. The two main topics will be not only hard to discuss, but it will also be hard to truly understand what the right answer is.
“I think the atmosphere at Friday’s Board meeting will be serious and deliberate because these are serious conversations and decisions,” Swartos said.
Optimism has been something that is hard to come by throughout this pandemic. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump gave America some hope as he hoped to be closer to normal by Easter.
“We are focusing on the guidance from our state agencies and on conditions in South Dakota,” Swartos said. “We are all looking for optimism and if things return to normal faster than anticipated, I think everyone will be happy. Having said that, our main focus is safety and we are looking to the experts in our state for guidance in that aspect.”
Friday will be a very tough day, in which the sports careers of many seniors could come to an end.
“We understand and appreciate all the work they’ve (seniors) done, both on and off the playing field/stage. We thank them for everything they’ve given back to their schools and communities,” Swartos said. “No matter what happens, the lessons they’ve learned and the friendships they’ve developed will last a lifetime.”
The SDHSAA is just like every other sports organization in the world as they wait for this pandemic to come to an end.
“Our goals in this specific instance are the safety of everyone involved, first and foremost, followed by exploring options to allow students to compete and perform in events for which they have prepared extensively,” Swartos said.