Each week we explore one question that affects Georgia high school sports with five coaches.
At Issue: Has it been possible for you to turn the coronavirus pandemic into a life lesson for your athletes?
The Skinny: Parkview’s baseball team entered the season with a chance to make history. The Panthers, who won Class AAAAAAA titles the past two seasons, were trying to become the first higher-classification team to successfully defend the title for three consecutive seasons.
Chan Brown has been leading the Panthers for 18 seasons and has coached Parkview to seven of its eight state championships in the highest class — in 2001, 2002, 2011, 2012, 2015 and the past two seasons. Parkview won national titles in 2012, 2013 and 2018.
The Panthers were ranked No. 1 in AAAAAAA when the season was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic. Brown has a mantra that he expresses in practice, which has become a reality of sorts. And Parkview’s players are learning from it.
Brown: “I think the biggest thing is what we always say in practice: ‘Play like it’s going to be your last time ever on the field.’ And I think that, obviously, it has come true more than we would prefer to, because of this. In December and January, you start hearing about some of this stuff and other parts of the world. You just don’t think about it coming and hitting home very often. It’s kind of out of left field; it’s not going to happen to us. But obviously it did.
“Last Thursday, we were lucky enough to be on the field when we found out the school was going to be out, and we were able to at least give the seniors a make-shift Senior Night that I was super happy about being able to do, if this is our last chance to be with them on the field. You know that our seniors got a little bit of a taste of that Senior Night that a lot of people didn’t. We’re very, very lucky for that, if this does end up that we don’t ever put on a uniform again this year. I hate it for them; I hate it for their families. The seniors, when it hits this time of year, they have a lot of stuff going on no matter if they’re playing a sport or not. They have the prom; they have senior day; they have senior night, senior week at school and just being able to be with their peers through this time is always a special time for the seniors and their families.
“I can honestly say it was probably one of the hardest realities of sitting there talking to the team. ... I explained to them that no matter if we get to play or not that this was just another challenge for them, and they have to find a way to become a better person or a better student, or whatever you want to say. That’s the harsh reality of things being taken away is that you have to learn from them. And hopefully the world does; hopefully everybody will. It’s just something that was taken away. These kids were going after a three-peat, and it’s never been done in AAAAAAA baseball. And that sounds selfish, and I don’t want it to because like I said, ‘It’s safety first, health first.’
“But as Parkview baseball, we’ve been working since Aug. 5. I get all these kids every day to teach them to push themselves. I get them at 1 p.m. in a weight-lifting class and they’ve been lifting since Aug. 5 or Aug. 6. They’ve been doing pool workouts; they’ve been doing speed and agility, the preseason and the season, so there’s a lot of time and hours that these kids are together. They kind of form that brotherhood. And when that love for each other is taken away, it’s kind of like part of their family being taken away. So a lot of people don’t understand how many hours these kids actually put in.”
AT ISSUE: Teaching adversity
• Chan Brown, Parkview baseball coach
• Brad Harber, Crisp County football coach
• Clark Meyer, Westminster girls soccer coach
• Josh Sagel, Lambert lacrosse coach
• Burt Waller, Starr’s Mill golf coach
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