AS MIKE WALKER STOOD ON THE SIDE OF THE FIELD WATCHING THE SECOND BAPTIST SCHOOL JUNIOR VARSITY BASEBALL TEAM FACE OFF AGAINST KINKAID, A THOUGHT CROSSED HIS MIND.
It was March 12, the COVID-19 Pandemic had gripped the country. It was spreading like wildfire. The night before, the NBA had called an immediate shutdown. That same day the University Interscholastic League suspended play in their boys' basketball state tournament. The country and the state were heading for a shutdown.
"I remember standing on the side of the field thinking, 'This might be the last competition of the year'," Walker said. "As it turned out, it was."
As the Director of Athletics for Second Baptist School, Walker, like many, had to quickly pivot his athletic department from in-person, on-campus teaching to being fully online. March 12 ended up being their last day on campus for the 2019-2020 school year.
SBS's Director of Performance Nick Mascioli sent home workouts through Teambuildr, coaches set up Zoom meetings to "stay connected and continue to build relationships" and as a department, they encouraged students to dive into Brian Smith's book The Assist.
"This book teaches athletes how to combine faith and sports and where proper motivation comes from," Walker said. "When you play to impress people, you will almost always be let down... when you play to bring glory to God you are not as easily distracted by failures or setbacks."
Throughout the final three months of the school year, which were all spent off campus, Walker said he was impressed with his coaches across all sports – who came up with "Program Plans" – as they pushed through what was a frustrating time for many.
"A program plan is a vision document that puts the coaching philosophy of the head coach on paper along with the vision for the program and how each student athlete will be impacted through participation in that program," Walker said. "Many of our coaches are also full-time staff members so they were busy providing online education, sending out content to students as a PE teacher or fulfilling other duties required of them by the school.
"We have such amazing men and women at SBS."
Once it was determined that students would not be coming back to campus and the spring sports seasons could not be completed, there was another challenge. How do we honor the Class of 2020?
"I wrote each spring senior a handwritten card, and we delivered it with flowers, a poster and a yard sign to their homes," Walker said. "Our Assistant Director of Athletics Sue Berg also posted senior shout outs on our social media platforms."
For Walker, this was also a time for him to reflect and learn from his athletic director's chair. The biggest takeaway for Walker – learning the real value in the life of a student-athlete is not the practices or games but connections and relationships.
"I evaluated where we are, mapped out where we need to be and talked through these strategies with coaches," Walker said. "I am really excited about the future of SBS Athletics. Our culture is moving forward and our coaches are doing the work to make sure we are intentional about each aspect of our program."
During the quarantine, Walker also hosted Eagle Vision webinars, interviewed and selected Autumn Malone (basketball, volleyball) and Jonah McFarland (soccer) as the Athletic Fellows for the 2020-2021 school year, while SBS coaches held virtual tryouts for their cheer and dance teams. The SBS athletics department worked hard to stay connected with each other and their student athletes during the worldwide pandemic, and it looks like their efforts paid off.