With spring season cancelled, sports directors and coaches try to inspire student-athletes

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By Matthew Dunn, Contributing Writer

Grafton/Westborough – This year’s spring sports’ season is different. As so many functions of everyday life have come to a screeching halt in recent weeks, high school athletics are no exception. Graduating seniors have forgone their final seasons, coaches have abandoned game plans, and the newly budding trees no longer equate to parents watching their children on the baseball, softball or lacrosse fields. In the wake of such an unfortunate scenario, however, local high school athletic directors are taking steps to reach homebound student-athletes to keep them engaged and active.

According to Grafton High School Director of Athletics Jim Scanlon, “we are trying our best to maintain some sense of normalcy for all of our students, including our student-athletes.”

In an environment where nothing feels normal, Scanlon and all of the Grafton High School coaches are looking for ways to connect with their student-athletes.

“We are working to create an experience for our students and staff through the ‘GHS Virtual Spring Challenge,’ which was designed and implemented by our indoor and outdoor girls track and field coach Jason Cote,” Scanlon said.

Students are encouraged to log their activity to compete with other school teams and coaches. “Abiding by all social distancing guidelines and both state and local restrictions, the GHS Virtual Spring Challenge tasks individual students and staff members with logging their personal daily challenge totals via a Google Forum,” Scanlon explained. “Once the logs are in, at the end of each day, those individuals’ totals are added and averaged for their respective teams…Averages for each team determine daily rankings and a weekly winner is determined.”

Scanlon is not alone in is efforts to guide student-athletes and athletic programs through unprecedented times. Johanna DiCarlo, athletic director at Westborough High school, is also working to integrate unique solutions.

“Athletics plays such an important part in connecting our kids to our school community and to their town,” DiCarlo said. “Our coaches all are recording little messages to our kids, so I’ve been putting those out on our Twitter account daily for the last week or so, and we’ll continue to do those.”

In addition to Twitter messages, DiCarlo noted that many of the Westborough High School coaches are working to reach out and connect with students a little more directly.

“We have a lot of our coaches reaching out through virtual meetings…and I know a lot of coaches are using things like Google Classroom to send things like fun activities or videos. They’re just trying to engage the kids in any way they can.”

Grafton and Westborough are just two examples of the concerted effort local schools and communities are making to support both students and student-athletes during unprecedented times.

“We miss our student-athletes and the healthy competition we are typically used to in the spring,” Scanlon noted, “but we are all still here to continue supporting our students and to keep the spirit of educational athletics alive.”