High school sports players, coaches and fans are all missing the thrill of live events amid the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order.
But athletic programs are making sure athletes get plenty of attention even as they are sidelined. Bay Valley Athletic League schools and others across the nation are finding creative ways to honor their athletes, despite the stoppage in play.
Heritage High School has launched daily social media athlete profiles, virtually listed the year’s top moments and pushed the baseball team to a fan-voted Boras Classic state title.
Liberty High School athletic officials have been active as well, showcasing the school’s superstars through individual-athlete Twitter tributes, posting photo-driven uplifting messages and even hosting a podcast.
“It’s just a way to let (athletes) know they are on our minds, and we want to pay a little tribute to them,” said Heritage Athletic Director Nate Smith.
The virtual activity can’t replace live action or achievements, but in the current conditions it’s the only option. California’s high school sports governing body officially canceled the spring sports season in early April, but in its place, the virtual activity stream sprang to life.
Heritage began honoring its senior athletes as soon as the season was scrapped, and others have quickly followed suit.
Recently, on what would have been the day of the Bay Valley Athletic League’s championship meet, the Liberty swim team recently took to Twitter to honor its seniors with photos and banners. Twitter tributes poured in for Freedom senior baseball star Andrew Neil after a short tribute to his Falcons’ career emerged on social media. And the Liberty stunt cheer team honored its own veteran members by hosting a social-distancing Senior Night, chronicled on Twitter.
“Jessie, Darcy and Ava have been an integral part of the program from day one,” the Liberty stunt team tweeted about its senior members. “Their leadership, resilience, positivity and dedication will be imprinted on the program for years to come.”
Most virtual athlete salutes rely on past memories, but the Heritage baseball team got to create new ones in recent weeks, when the usual in-person Boras Classic baseball tournament went virtual, with fan votes deciding who won each game.
The Patriots ended up winning the virtual state title in a 621-532-vote win over La Mirada.
The tournament participants soaked up the closest thing to real action they have seen in months, creating virtual lineup cards and mythologizing the games’ details over group chats. Event organizers and teams also tossed in graphics, recorded interviews and national anthem performances over social media.
“We turned it into a pretty good time,” said Heritage baseball coach Kevin Brannan.
Heritage senior outfielder Keith Jones agreed, but noted that nothing can replace the real thing.
“It leaves me wondering what would have happened (if we got to play the season),” he said. “A lot of people thought we could have been something special.”