As Brentsville’s girls soccer practice neared its end Friday, March 13, coach Sonny Barrickman received an email on his phone.
It detailed how Prince William County Public Schools decided to close until Tuesday, April 14, due to the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). That put an end to all school athletics for four weeks after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced the closure of all K-12 schools in the state until at least Monday, March 30.
So Barrickman called his girls together and had them sit down before breaking the news.
“That was one of the hardest things I've had to do as a coach,” Barrickman said later. “Eyes watered up and lots of questions.
“My seniors keep asking will [they] get to play at least one last game, and it's doesn't feel good not having a better answer for the kids,” Barrickman said. “Putting all the emotions of how it [has affected] the girls into words is difficult.”
The Virginia High School League’s spring season was set to begin last Monday, March 16, but now most teams will likely play shortened schedules, at best.
Coaches such as Battlefield’s Cederic Bullock understood the need for the change.
“It’s the correct response to mitigate the situation as well as possible,” the boys soccer coach said of COVID-19.
But “the biggest feeling is frustration,” Osbourn Park softball coach Patrick DeRosa said.
Much like the scene Friday, March 13, at Brentsville, DeRosa faced a lot of questions Thursday from a few players after the Yellow Jackets’ practice. He said he saw consternation on their faces in the wake of news that many college and spring sports seasons had been canceled across the country.
“You could see their worry [that] they wouldn’t get any games this season,” DeRosa said. “It was hard for the coaches to not have an answer for them.”
COVID-19 could presumably cause further cancellations of games, or even the entire VHSL spring season.
“It’s hard to remain optimistic with all of the news swirling,” DeRosa said, “but I encouraged our girls to remain hopeful.”
Uncertainty of the future has likely hit seniors hardest. They usually have months to contemplate the finality of their high school careers, but the possibility of a senior year without a spring sports season burst up like a geyser last week.
“The first thing that came to their minds is, ‘Well, is the season over?” Bullock said. “Am I not going to have a Senior Night?’”
Battlefield’s boys and girls soccer teams actually planned to celebrate their Senior Night together during a season-opening doubleheader Monday. With work being done to Battlefield’s home field, the Bobcats were scheduled to play most of their games on the road, so they organized a senior celebration in Haymarket at the start of the season.
“The parents had lot of good plans set up to have a good night for the boys,” Bullock said. “We just wanted to make it as special as possible for them.
“The seniors are very disappointed,” he said. “You really do remember your senior year. That’s your time to be a leader and put your footprint out there, so it’s been hard on them and I do feel very much sad for the kids, and their parents.”
For Osbourn Park, the school closure also canceled their trip to the Grand Strand Softball Classic in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. So now DeRosa and the Yellow Jackets are just left hoping they can get back on their home field at some point this season.
“Even if it is a condensed five game district schedule and then go right to playoffs,” he said. “We’ll take whatever games we can.”
Two of Osbourn Park’s three senior softball players were members of the 2018 Class 6 state runner-up team. They fell short of returning to state by only one win last season.
“They wanted to make one more run at it,” DeRosa said, “and they’re worried they’ll have that chance taken away from them.”