BENNETT'S MINUTES (FREE ACCESS): Some shining lights still exist among gloominess in prep sports

Thursday, April 2, 2020

By now you’ve likely heard that the IHSAA has canceled spring sports for this year due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus.

The official statement is included with this column, and it’s obviously painful for all the spring sports athletes — especially the seniors who thought they were going to have one more chance and now they don’t get one.

In spite of the pain the announcement caused for many people, the decision was the correct and obvious one.

For athletes such as South Putnam’s Kain Gregory and Cloverdale’s Kenzie Stoltz, the ability to defend sectional track and field titles has vanished. I know Stoltz had been working hard, as had many others, in order to return to the state finals and reach the medal stand in the hurdles.

For ones like golfer Conner Taylor, the chance to win a first sectional title has also been taken. New varsity coaches such as Greencastle’s Amy Coons and North Putnam’s Chris Geeser were ready for their first season in the coaching box.

Unquestionably sad times for all.

I saw DePauw men’s basketball coach Bill Fenlon walking his dog recently, and rolled down my window to talk to him (keeping proper distance).

We talked briefly about how bad it is to not have basketball, and he said he put it into perspective with his players.

He said he told them that in past generations when things got crazy, our country put guns in their hands and sent them overseas to kill people.

“All that is being asked of people is to wash their hands and stay home,” he said. “That’s not that much to ask.”

Yet, through all this despair, there have emerged some bright spots. If you have not yet read the “Featured Senior Athlete” in today’s sports section, you should.

North Putnam’s Abby Simmerman provided a refreshing breath of fresh air that I previewed on Wednesday in social media in not backing down from the challenge of going into nursing despite the obvious dangers everyone involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Also, Cloverdale’s Sammie Shrum isn’t one to just sleep all day or binge every series on Netflix; she’s using her spare time to conduct a free online basketball clinic for any young ladies who want to work on their skills in all of their free time.

For parents from any school district to have their kids to join in, they should search on Facebook for “Sam’s online basketball camp” and join the group.

The future college basketball coach gives instruction and demonstrates drills that aspiring players can do in an excellent use of her time.

Undoubtedly there are other examples of our young people doing great things in these trying times.

Feel free to let me know and send me a note to:

We’ll be looking for great stories to tell, and our readers often are able to provide ideas in that area.

Odds and ends

• The “Featured Senior Athlete” will continue indefinitely, likely throughout the end of May.

• One omission was made in a recent column on coaching changes. Cloverdale’s Tyler Lotz, an All-American lineman at Marian University last fall, will be joining the coaching staff of the Knights as a graduate assistant whenever football is allowed to resume.

• As promised, we are still chipping away at college signings and will get through those as quickly as possible.

For athletes who did not have official signings, please make sure to follow me on Twitter (@joeybbennett) if you don’t already so I can contact you for a story. (Or, e-mail me at the address listed earlier if you don’t use Twitter.)

In the near future, I will be doing my first-ever online signing story interview via Zoom. That should be interesting.

• The boys’ all-county team will be announced on Tuesday.

• This month’s “Feel Good Friday” will be on a local teacher and coach who had been deployed overseas with the military and is now quarantined in Texas. Look for that in the middle of the month.

That idea was also provided by a reader, and any ideas for future stories in that series are welcome.