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WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER

Coaches need your support now more than ever

Webster City softball coach Jess Howard (right) offers up instructions during a game last season. Her daily in-season routine usually begins prior to 7 a.m. and doesn’t end until after 11 p.m., and that was prior to the coronavirus pandemic. DFJ file photo/Troy Banning

For the last decade, a typical summer morning goes something like this for Jess Howard — wake up with the sun (or before), get to the Webster City softball field before 7 a.m., practice for an hour, then manicure the field before making the short trek up to the gymnasium for a volleyball open gym session.

It’s now close to noon. Maybe.

Then it’s a quick trip home to feed her children before she heads back to the softball field. If her Lynx team has an away game, she’ll throw batting practice and then race inside the school for a shower before she has to jump on the bus.

Travel. Pregame rituals. Coaching the game. Back on the bus. Input statistics. More travel. By the time she’s finally home, it can be 10 or 11 p.m., sometimes later. Time for bed because in seven hours or so, she’ll have to do it all once again.

All four of our area baseball and softball coaches — Howard and Adison Kehoe (baseball) at Webster City, and Kyle Galetich (baseball) and Harry McMaken (softball) at South Hamilton — offered up similar daily in-season routines.

Webster City head baseball coach Adison Kehoe will see his job description expand this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to his normal duties, he’ll also be asked to monitor the health of his players and ensure that social distancing measures are taken whenever possible. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Galetich provides a personal laundry service for his players’ baseball pants. Kehoe throws fastball after fastball, and sprinkles in some curves, to each of his players in batting practice day after day, week after week. McMaken does what he can to keep his diamond looking pristine.

I guess my point is this: Coaching isn’t easy. And there’s so much more going on behind the scenes than what the general public sees when it sits around the field to watch a game.

This was all prior to the novel coronavirus too.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on all of our lives. Businesses have closed. Hundreds of thousands of people have gone from steady incomes to unemployment. Nobody has any idea what “normal” looks like anymore, or what the “new normal” will resemble.

And sports were taken away. The high school spring season was cancelled in April, and I’ll be honest, I thought the chances of summer baseball and softball were somewhere between slim and none right up until the moment last week when they were approved by the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union.

Is playing high school sports in June and July the right call? I have no idea, and neither to you. Nobody does. Only time will tell.

What I do know is that I’m happy for the kids who will have a season. I’m elated for seniors like WCHS softball players Tatum Goings and Taylor McKinney, who will get a proper sendoff. I can’t wait to return to my comfort zone professionally, which has been area athletics for the past 20 years.

The trade-off is that the burden to pull all of this off has been heaped upon the shoulders of coaches all across the state. They’ll be asked to monitor the health of their players with temperature checks. They’ll be in charge of ensuring social distancing takes place between team members during practices and games, as well as on the bus. They’ll oversee the sanitization of game balls, bats, helmets … basically any and all equipment.

Nurse. Doctor. Hall monitor. Custodian. And, oh yeah, coach. Howard, Kehoe, Galetich and McMaken are accustomed to wearing many hats, but there’s the real possibility that this may be too much. Way, way too much.

But all four say they’re more than willing to do all of it and more if asked. They want a season for their players, and if that means additional responsibilities and more hours, so be it.

Which is why I implore you: Give them a break.

Coaches will have enough on their plates; they don’t need petty grievances about playing time or in-game decisions piled on.

Umpires are sacrificing plenty as well. They put on the uniform and mask for not much more than travel money and many of them fall into the at-risk category were they to become infected with COVID-19. But they’ll be out there anyway. They deserve your respect and admiration regardless of if you believe their strike zones are too small or they missed that call at second base.

This summer is a chance for all of us to come together for the greater good. We get to be at the ballpark. We get to watch games again. We get to watch kids be kids again. And considering what we’ve all endured since mid-March, we should all be oh so grateful for this opportunity.

The coaches and schools can’t do it alone. They need your help, your cooperation, and your goodwill. And if we can all come together, this summer has the chance to be a magical time that nobody ever forgets.

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