The 2019-20 high school sports season officially reached its conclusion with the UIL's recent announcement of continued cancellations through the remainder of the school year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
For Brownwood High School head football coach and athletic director Sammy Burnett, the year will be one he will likely never forget with major abdominal surgery during the Lions' playoff run on the gridiron and an athletic season that wrapped up during spring break.
Burnett reflected on the athletic year and looked toward an uncertain future during a Tuesday phone interview.
“Number one I'm saddened for our seniors that they didn't get an opportunity to complete their senior year,” Burnett said. “There were a lot of kids we felt had a chance to compete at the state level. In golf there's Caden Reagan. A.J McCarty and Aleyia Cotton in track, and Trinity Jackson has done so well, along with our relay teams, girls and boys, and maybe some throwers like Kenya Barnes had a chance. Then with baseball and softball, you never know how they would have done.
“I have a heavy heart that we weren't able to finish because a lot of kids had a lot of dreams and a lot aspirations to have a great spring. Hopefully we taught them lessons to be successful people and hopefully they take this adversity and continue on with their careers, their schooling, and their lives and have a great foundation to be successful. That's our major goal anyway.”
With the remainder of the 2019-20 sports year lost, there is no guarantee when August arrives that football, volleyball, cross country and tennis will be allowed to start at they traditional would.
On Monday, the Texas State 7-on-7 Organization announced there would be no qualifying tournaments or a state tournament this year, creating another challenge football programs will have to overcome in preparation for the 2020-21 season.
“I wasn't surprised, I thought they may do that so I wasn't shocked when I saw that,” Burnett said of the 7-on-7 cancellation. “For kids that are returning we're trying to stay on track and keep them working out in some form or fashion. We're also trying to educate the kids we feel are going to start the football season on the varsity level with Zoom meetings and things like that to give them a bump in the playbook. We're hoping we can get where we can return to some normalcy and get in some workouts and day-to-day activities.
“We're in the same boat as everybody else. What I'm really cautious of is giving kids directions to do this or that when I don't want to do something to jeopardize their health. We're trying to give them ways to condition and maintain strength at home — push up, sit ups, body weights — something to do without telling them to go outside and do this and that because I'm taking this epidemic serious and I don't want to get any kids to contract the virus. We're Just trying to get them to do what they can do at home and just be patient.”
Burnett stated physicals for athletes for the 2020-21school year will be scheduled at a later date and information will be passed along in the future.
When athletics resumes, preparations for the impending seasons will be like none before.
“Getting kids in the physical position they need to be in to be successful is my main concern,” Burnett said. “That goes for any sport in August, getting them in the shape they need to be in and the strength they need to have, but it's a level playing field for everyone.
“We lost time in football when it comes to getting our kids to go through reps physically. We're trying to do that mentally now with guys we feel may have a chance to play on the varsity level because the playbook is so detailed where with the sub-varsities it's not as detailed.”
Burnett has never experienced a high school sports season quite like this one, but there's still plenty that's occurred for which he's thankful.
“I'm proud of the fact that our programs went to the state playoff the first half of the year, it was a great start,” Burnett said. “For me, I went through the transition of major surgery and almost losing my life to the blessing of recovery and the opportunity to be 100 percent healthy. I look forward to us getting it done again when we have a new start.”