The softball field at Waterloo Firemen’s Park will remain empty this spring after the WIAA’s decision to cancel spring sports became official on April 21.

It was a foregone conclusion but the sting still was felt throughout not only the state of Wisconsin, but in Marshall and Waterloo as well.

The WIAA’s decision came down April 21 as its Board of Control voted to cancel 2020 spring sports regular-season competitions and the Tournament Series while allowing individual, virtual spring sports coaching to continue until the final day of the 2020 season, which is the final day of the State Tournament for the respective sports.

The cancellation of spring competitions and State Tournaments is in support of Gov. Tony Evers’ ongoing efforts to prevent, suppress and control the spread of the COVID-19 disease. On April 16, the state’s Safer at Home order was extended until May 26, with all public and private K-12 schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year (June 30), which also prohibits all school extracurricular and athletic activities.

Kaitlyn Everson, head girls track and field coach at Waterloo, felt the disappointment.

“I was a little disappointed. For obvious reasons, I understand why it got canceled. I just feel horrible for my senior girls who weren’t able to compete in their final season,” Everson said. “The athletes that I have talked to are upset; mainly seniors. But, they do understand why the season was canceled for health reasons.

Everson said the Pirates were in line to have a big season.

“I had some high hopes. As a new coach, I was hoping that my past experiences would really help influence the athletes, especially my seniors. In the past, Waterloo has always had a few female athletes make it to state. It’s upsetting that my seniors would get one last chance to do so,” she added.

Marshall head baseball coach Shane Murphy echoed Everson’s sentiments.

“Obviously it’s disappointing that the season was never able to begin,” Murphy said. “My heart goes out to the kids especially the seniors, it has to be incredibly frustrating for them and all they have missed out on. Unfortunately this is what had to be done with the health crisis at hand and we have to remember that this is way bigger than any one of us and way bigger than sports. Keeping that perspective has helped me in this situation but still doesn’t make it easy to not coach/play the game I love.

“We were going to have a solid season. We were picked to win the conference and make a run in the tournament,” Murphy added.

Another area baseball coach, Dennis Klubertanz, was holding out hope that there would be a season before last week’s final announcement ended those hopes.

“Although we were holding out hope, I think we all knew this day was coming as you just saw how everything was continuing to get pushed back. We received an email from the conference commissioner a few weeks back about how we wanted to handle the season once we returned. I’ll admit, it got your juices going a little bit,” he said.

During that virtual meeting Klubertanz was notified all schools would be shut down through June.

“When I heard that news, I knew it over as far as any chance of a season. We are hopeful that things can start opening back up at the end of May and we can start our summer Legion season in June. Our coaching staff has talked about how we are going to use that as our baseball season. In the big picture though, we need to be vigilant so that we can get kids back to school in the fall,” he said.

Waterloo baseball had some off-season workouts that Klubertanz said his players were attending before the initial Safer at Home order came down in mid-March.

“Before everything shut down, we had had some open gyms and some of our players were going to the diamond to do some things on their own. With the Safer at Home orders, they cannot even get together and play catch, Klubertanz said. “The disappointment from our players comes from the fact that we all saw a conference race that was wide open. We were returning seven starters and our entire pitching staff so we definitely felt that if things broke right, we had the ability to have a fun season. As coaches, we see it as not only did we have some talent coming back but most importantly, it was going to be a great group of kids to be around. They enjoy the game of baseball and they enjoy each other’s company.

“When I was talking to one player, his biggest disappointment was just not being able to see his friends.”

Deb Braatz has been coaching softball in Waterloo for more than three decades.

“We are all very disappointed, my players, coaches and myself, but we also understand that for the safety of everyone this is the way it has to be,” Braatz said.

The WIAA board passed an additional measure to allow for up to 30 contact days in the summer for spring coaches and their teams if the Class of 2020 seniors are present. A goal of that is to allow teams to find local competition should local governance provide gatherings large enough for competition.

“We are looking forward to the 30 contact days which we are hoping can take place in July,” Braatz said.

“I knew in my gut that once we closed school we wouldn’t be coming back, I tried my hardest to remain hopeful for our kids,” said Marshall head softball coach Erin Young. “I was walking around our track when I saw the news and I think I cried for my entire next mile. I was and am devastated for our kids, not just our Marshall kids, but all of our kids. Softball means so much to me as a player, spectator, and coach, I just want for all young ladies to have some of their best memories to be like mine were and continue to be, with my softball family playing the game we love. It’s difficult to look forward to something all year to have it abruptly finish before it starts.

Waterloo boys track coach Shane Seefeld saw the writing on the wall as well.

“I think the WIAA reaction was inevitable. Yes, I’m disappointed. But student safety is always a priority,” he said.

“A couple of the athletes contacted me about what is going to happen next. At this time I mentioned that there are some summer possibilities. Summer practice? Summer meets? Maybe, but we are a long ways away from any discussion on those ideas.”

“We want to extend our sincere empathy and regrets to all the student-athletes and coaches that have worked hard in anticipation of participating in sports this spring, particularly the seniors,” WIAA Executive Director and former Sun Prairie Athletic Director Dave Anderson said. “The Board of Control and Executive Staff have been resolute in their hopes to preserve some chance to play one more time, and it is our hope that by providing the extended unrestricted days, we can provide some opportunities and closure for spring sport student-athletes.”

The cancellation of all extracurricular activities prohibits all school or coach involvement with training, practices, scrimmages and contests until, at the earliest July 1, unless restrictions are removed prior to that time. Therefore, coaches may not bring students together or encourage students to assemble for extracurricular purposes, which includes competitions, practices and all instructional and training until the restrictions on assembling in groups are removed.

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