Jackson Center’s Scott Elchert has had a week to ‘wrap his mind around’ the suspension of the basketball tournament and his team’s future. He’s chosen the path of being both coach…and an adult concerning what’s best for everyone.
One game away from the state tournament after last week’s 40-30 regional tournament semi-final win over Cincinnati Christian Academy, his team’s destiny has been put on hold – their Division IV regional final game with Wellington School, out of Columbus, a victim of the OHSAA’s suspension of all winter tournament activities due to the coronavirus.
“To tell you the truth, it’s been a week now since we played, I haven’t seen my team since Monday, when they told us we couldn’t practice together anymore…and I really haven’t been able to wrap my mind around all this,” said Elchert from his athletic director’s office at Jackson Center High School.
“Like everyone else, I’m thinking a lot about the developments of the last week, society-wise. Lot of changes since then, not only in sports but with society, in general. There’s no question that the state tournament has come to mind during that time. We were one game away and something we had worked for all year was suddenly taken off the table. That’s hard to accept.”
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Question one…how has he reconciled the situation with his team?
“When I last saw them on Monday I just reminded them that you can only control what you can control, and that’s our motto every time we play. You prepare to win, but you don’t always win. You just do the best you can. And as tough as this is to accept we need to turn it into a positive. That’s what athletics is. When you get knocked down you have to get back up and go on again if you want to play.
“And I’m confident this group will do that, because as good as they are to coach from a basketball standpoint, they’re just great kids in general. These guys are going to go on to be successful in a lot of different things down the road.”
An issue, however. It’s easier for sophomores and juniors than seniors, like Elchert’s son Christopher, who probably won’t play for Michigan next year. Surely, there have been conversations…between dad and son.
“Well first, he wouldn’t be allowed to play at Michigan, anyway,” Elchert laughs. “But you’re right…for seniors this is the double-whammy. But for seniors, in general…there are so many unknowns for this graduating class. Are they even going to be able to have a graduation? I’m not gonna’ lie. This is tough because those kids, including my son…they’ve committed and worked long and hard to achieve the goals they set for themselves this year. It’s been an honor to make this journey with them – to coach them.”
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Question two…did he watch the Thursday news conference by the OHSAA? And how tough would it be to get back to game speed in the event they do play the state tournament to determine a champion?
“It would be hard, but our kids would buy into it,” says Elchert. “They’d be ready to go because everyone (other schools) is in the same boat. But we’d embrace that opportunity if it comes, and we’d figure out a way to get this thing rolling again.”
Question three…what did Elchert, as athletic director, hear in the news conference as to the possibility of playing spring sports after April 6th, when the issue of schools re-opening is scheduled to be re-evaluated?
“What I heard is what everyone heard…there’s just too many unknowns out there. I think that if the schools can come back after April 6th and resume a normal schedule…then spring sports could be a definite go. And I also think they could find a way to conclude the winter tournaments. But when you listen to the doctors you hear the pretense of that not happening, with all the new developments going on across the country.”
That would be particularly hard on Scott Elchert and the Tigers. He’s taken the program to the Final Four twice previously, and his current team has won seven of its last eight games. And for those who would short-change their chances against Wellington, a talented team with a size advantage and more depth, that lone loss in the past eight games came against #1-ranked and unbeaten Columbus Grove, 42-40, in overtime!
“Listen, I’m not panicked,” says Elchert. “And I want what’s best for everyone involved. Obviously health has to be the #1 priority, and what I believe is that maybe this is a good ‘reset’ button for all of us – for society, in general. When this is over I think we’ll all have a better appreciation for the blessings we have…because when you don’t have any sports at all you realize what you take for granted – that they weren’t so bad the way they were before. That’s what I believe. We have to use this as a reset, and look forward to the day when we can play again – appreciate what we have.”