Coaches rejoice after winter contact sports given OK

BIG RAPIDS - Winter sports coaches were obviously excited when they heard the news on Thursday that basketball, hockey, cheer and wrestling could start next week.

Their seasons went into a pause on Nov. 16 and came back on Jan. 16 but only with noncontact. The noncontact order was extended to Feb. 22 but was amended to two weeks earlier on Thursday

"It is about time," Crossroads Charter Academy boys basketball coach Rusty Fullerton said. "We have been conditioning and preparing for the day we could put it all together. We will be ready."

Baldwin boys basketball coach JJ Eads agreed.

"Finally some good news," he said. "Hopefully we can have a season without interruptions but it's a start. I know our boys are excited. It's been a rough start for us with injuries, guys not playing due to a variety of reasons, so we'll be much younger than expected but at least we'll have a chance to play.

"We've treated the first few weeks as a training camp, and still haven't put much more time to Xs and Os but that will come as we move forward."

Pine River boys basketball coach Brian Goodenow and girls skipper Paula Justin are ready.

"Ready or not, here we come," Goodenow said. "We will have our first contact practice on Monday and likely play our first game on Tuesday. Obviously the quick start after such long delays is not ideal, but we are eager to get in as many games as we possibly can while keeping safety first, for all involved.

"I am beyond excited for our kids. They need this badly. With the starts, stops, delays, school shutdowns and reopenings, their mental health has been seriously challenged and their resilience tested. They need this outlet, structure, camaraderie, and the multitude of other benefits gained through high school sports."

"My girls are ready for competitions to begin," Justin said.

So are wrestlers.

"The wrestling community is relieved to hear the news," Pine River coach Terry Martin said. "In our sport, the noncontact practices have been very limiting. It is also emotionally difficult to come in and work hard everyday not knowing if we would get cleared to compete this season. We are ready for Feb. 8 to be here."

Baldwin athletic director Callistus Eziukwu said athletes and coaches should still be cautious.

"What a time to be alive," he said. "It looks like we might be able to finally get to see some sports. The optimist in me wants to be excited, but the realist in me is, keeping me calm, because these things may change from day to day."