This week, The Nonpareil will speak to activities directors from the city as they prepare for the return of prep athletics with softball and baseball. Practice starts June 1, and games can be played beginning June 15. Our series continues today with Lewis Central’s Jim Dermody.
I’d imagine your phone has been quite active over the last week.
Definitely. It’s been a little bit of a challenge. The news kind of came unexpectedly. Just looking at all of the issues out there and all of the potential hurdles, we probably weren’t optimistic that it was going to happen. Then the decision came that we were, and that decision came earlier than what was expected. There’s been a lot of conversations and preparations still in the works, making sure we can get everything in place to keep kids safe and follow all the guidelines.
You met via Zoom recently with Hawkeye Ten Conference ADs. What topics were discussed?
We want to be consistent in terms of what we’re doing, how we require social distancing with our spectators and finding the right guidance with our coaches in terms of practice and games and getting permission forms signed and all of those types of things that are unique to this situation. We’ll talk more next week about game experience and game nights.
Is your understanding that most or all of the Hawkeye Ten Conference will play softball and baseball?
As of now, everybody is planning on playing. I haven’t heard anybody where it’s honestly even a question. I’ve heard there are some of the bigger districts across that state that are still contemplating whether or not they are going to play and haven’t made a final decision. There’s always concern for a few of the bigger districts across the state if they were to make the decision not to play what type of snowball effect that would have on the rest of us. As of now, we’re proceeding like we’ll have baseball and softball, and I fully expect we will, but I’m not going to be surprised if some of those bigger districts do bow out. The associations will have to react in some way if it really changes the complexion of a season.
What was your reaction to the guidelines released Tuesday by the IHSAA and IGHSAU?
I think all of those entities and The Department of Education have provided great guidance and are working through this just like we are. We appreciate the work that they do for us. That guidance helps. What they brought out Tuesday was an extension of what the DE put out initially. All of these things help us locally to get things in place. I think the transportation issue is probably the biggest unknown right now that drives a lot of what we do. For example, when I’m going on the road, what levels can we play? What can we provide for transportation? One hurdle would be most of the time with your freshman and reserve levels, those games are during the day. If we can’t meet the guidelines on transportation or if we can’t get those kids there, we can’t expect parents to get kids there, particularly during the day. Once we have guidance of how many kids we can put on a bus and what we need to do to keep them safe on a bus, that will help. Then we can get our schedules done, and it’s domino effect. Once you get the schedules done, then you’re working with umpires to get every game covered. I think everything has gone well, considering that we’re on a short timeline for everything.
How has it been filling out the schedule?
It’s changed some. I think everybody would tell you the same. I think everybody wanted to maintain allegiances with their conferences. We had to move some things around from a conference standpoint, so we will only play everybody one time. As you start to move those dates, they could potentially interfere with your nonconference games. We had some plans to go to Des Moines. We had planned to play host to Urbandale, (travel to) Southeast Polk and Ankeny. We’re not going to probably travel to Des Moines. The more you can restrict travel, the better off you’ll be. We won’t play any of those really long road trips. We do have some games with some Sioux City schools. Travel plays a big part. From baseball particularly, we had to be smart about how we scheduled games. With pitching and things like that, our coaching staff has not had the normal buildup to a season and the ability to get as many arms ready. You’ve got to think of the safety of kids. On a normal schedule, you’ll play five games a week most weeks. We’re trying not to go over four games a week just to make sure we’re taking care of arms.
Is streaming games for softball and baseball an option for fans who would prefer to stay home?
We haven’t talked about that yet. There are a few more challenges for streaming baseball and softball than some of the other sports. We have some capability of doing those types of things. I don’t know at this time if we will. They didn’t put any restrictions on us in terms of the number of fans we can have in. We were going to do some things to create more seating and allowing people to spread out. We usually cover up our outfield fences, and we won’t do that this year so people can spread out and watch the games from their chairs in the outfield, those kind of things that can allow you to spread out a little bit more.
What message would you send to the Lewis Central community as summer athletics prepare to start?
First and foremost, everybody has to have a level of respect for everybody else in keeping everybody safe. I’m sure there are varying degrees of opinion out there about what we should and shouldn’t be doing from a health standpoint, but ultimately, just like any other activity, this has got to be about the kids. One of the things we don’t want to see happen is people not showing respect for the guidelines out there and following expectations, and the next thing you know, we get a rash of the virus or we get kids sick and we have to shut down the season for a while. This is about the kids. As adults, let’s make sure we’re doing everything we can to make sure the kids have a good experience.”
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