Thoughts of winning league championships have been replaced by questions of when will the coronavirus end as athletic directors like Anthony Chan continue to navigate through unusual times at the high school level.
“It’s been strange to not have the hustle and bustle of athletics on campus,” said Chan, the South Pasadena High AD when asked what life has been like without athletics due to the pandemic. “When I look out of my office, I am accustomed to seeing a variety of students heading to our facilities and getting ready for practice or matches.”
With no students around, remote learning in place, the acreage of a normally active local high school resembling a ghost town these days, all normality has disappeared. What once was commonplace, taken for granted, is gone for now.
“There’s usually a line of buses to take our student-athletes to matches, which I like to go out and check up on the buses, give a wave, and wish them a good competitive match,” said Chan, missing the usual lively scene.
Work crews finishing up a yearlong $13.5 million dollar major renovation project of the athletics department at the local high school serve as a reminder that sports will someday return. But for now, the place is eerily quiet. “Once the construction crews are done for the day, it’s still,” noted Chan. “Occasionally people will walk by with their dogs or just to get from place to place, but the liveliness that is our comprehensive high school is all virtual now. In the stillness, I have had more time to focus on renovations and planning.
With the fall sports season on hold, the SPHS athletic director, said he’s been spending much of his time on the job “aiming at a moving target,” saying, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) calendar “has given us a way to plan matches, but we still are figuring out how we can handle the stress on facilities and officiating with many overlapping sports.”
That’s because three sport seasons – fall, winter and spring – will basically be held in two. The fall season will begin in December, and the spring begins in March. All the sports usually played over a nine-month calendar year will be condensed into six.
“Not all sports start at the exact same time, with some a week or two apart and ending slightly earlier than each other,” explained Chan. “The schedules that we have are being reorganized as not all of them were easy copy and paste type transfers, especially if the number of weeks was shorter by a few. One example that many athletic directors across Southern California had a hard time working on was figuring out what happens to Week 0 of football. The new calendar removed week 0, so many teams had to cancel their match and try to reschedule a game in their bye-week. In our case, our Week 0 match-up had the same bye-week on week 5, so we moved our match to that week. Other schools were not as lucky, and were scrambling to find a new competitor.”
Chan said all Rio Hondo League league schedules, in which South Pasadena High participates, are near completion, “as many were transfers, but some need to be altered specifically if there is a stress on a facility,” he explained. “For example, boys and girls volleyball now coincide in the same ‘fall’ season, and we are in the final draft of a schedule that allows our coaches to not move back and forth between varsity matches.”
The normal excitement of launching a new school year in the fall with the anticipation to a full array of sports including boys water polo, cross country, girls volleyball, tennis and golf and, of course, Friday night football have been sidelined.
“It’s been a little strange and somewhat sad to not having our fall sports in full swing,” Chan said. “On the other hand, I have been sticking with my mental approach to this pandemic that we, for the first time, have a little more time to enjoy the still. That’s not to say that everything is still, but I have more time to focus on things like the renovation and trying to create curriculum with my colleagues for our math classes.”
Void of football, it’s different indeed without the usual Friday Night Lights, which generally bring out big crowds to Roosevelt Field on the South Pasadena High campus, providing a night of enjoyment and a kickoff to the weekend. “I miss it,” said Chan matter-of-factly. “I miss all of the sports, but Friday Night Lights definitely has a unique feel to it as it involves a variety of things outside of the athletic realm. I enjoy watching the marching band and color guard, buying a famous teriyaki chicken bowl (at the snack stand) or my personal favorite-the Spicy Tiger Dog, and things like Homecoming where the ASB (Associated Student Body) puts on a great show.”
Life just hasn’t been the same for the SPHS AD since the outbreak began in mid-March, forcing the school to focus on distance learning in an effort to keeping them safe. “The culmination of everything that makes South Pasadena High School is what I really miss about Friday Night Lights, but I also really miss watching the other sports compete. I miss walking through the gym to see the fun and high-energy practices of girls volleyball, the smack of the serves from tennis, watching our high-powered and talented boys water polo team, seeing the large groups of cross country runners and their enthusiasm for their teammates, and wishing the ladies of girls golf a great match, and asking them for swing tips.”
With high school sports pushed out of bounds due to the pandemic, Chan recognizes it isn’t an easy situation for those playing and following local sports. High School athletic leagues, club sport and college programs are all in the mix as a result of the coronavirus.
“Mentally, it’s about recognizing the positives instead of being inundated with the negative,” he said. “There’s so many times where we wish we had more time with our families, and now there is plenty of time for that while working at home. I don’t think I would have ever seen anything like this in my lifetime. There’s so many times where we’ve had a virus or disease to look out for, but normally it’s well-contained enough for us to go about our day to day lives. This is so new for us because transmission spreads very easily and we’re not used to committing together towards preventing the spread. This has been a catalyst towards modernizing a lot of our procedures. I think we will be re-thinking a lot of ways that we do things.”