Just over one week ago, Brad Ficke was telling Manhattan Country Club's Scott Wempe he thought the spring sports season was salvageable.
Ficke, Manhattan High boys' golf coach, already was adjusting to the Manhattan-Ogden Public Schools closure that was set to last until March 30. However, there was no indication at the time that he had anything more to worry about.
"That’s just me being an English teacher and having no expertise in the spread of the pandemic and how quickly it’s moved," Ficke said. "I thought we would be fine. Then, in a matter of days, it went from, 'We’ll be fine' to where we are today."
The day after Ficke's conversation with Wempe, Gov. Laura Kelly ordered the closure of all public schools for in-person classes. Ficke's belief flipped on its head. When the Kansas State High School Activities Association followed by canceling the spring sports season, which includes boys' golf, it wasn't a surprise.
"Once I learned schools would be closed indefinitely, I didn’t see how spring sports would work," Ficke said. "Having taught for 20-plus years and coached, I just thought, 'How can you have spring sports without that?' I just thought the KSHSAA announcement was a matter of time."
While the announcement itself didn't come as a shock, the rate at which the events transpired stunned Ficke.
To that point, MHS only had practiced three times. The team hadn't had to make any cuts, jumping right into evaluation practices March 2.
Then the team went on spring break, not knowing there wouldn't be a season for it to return to when it came back.
"Thinking about it today, which is still not even a week removed from the cancellation of school, it feels like from today to last Tuesday has taken three weeks," Ficke said Monday. "It doesn’t feel like six days."
Ficke's team had a chance to be special this season. The team returned the likes of Casey Gritton, who had lettered every single season of his high school career. A Centennial League title, which would be the second in program history, wasn't out of the question, either.
Instead of preparing for the season, Ficke found himself texting his players. Ficke implored his underclassmen to start preparations for next season right now. His message to the team's seniors struck a different note.
"For the seniors, I just apologized," Ficke said. "It’s nobody’s fault, but I’m sorry for their experience."
Golf is something of a rarity in sports, with players rarely forced into being near each other. The game itself practices social distancing even in normal times. While Ficke acknowledged the differences between sports, he sees the choice to cancel the season as the right one, despite the cost.
"We also shared that it’s just sports, and there are bigger fish to fry," Ficke said. "COVID-19 is taking people’s lives, and to compare that to high school sports — or any sports — is ridiculous."
Now, Ficke and his players, much like the rest of the country, are in an unfamiliar place. There aren't practices to prepare for. There aren't tournaments to look forward to.
"(I) just miss interacting with kids and having something lined up to do and ready to go and concrete goals to meet," Ficke said. "(Like), 'Here’s the meet that’s coming up, here’s what we’re preparing for in the classroom.' It’s been a time of unknowns and uncertainty, and I’m not wired to deal with that very well."
Despite the difficult circumstances, Ficke hopes his players can move forward despite the temporary pause put on their sport.
"There will be a next year, and you need to prepare for that," Ficke said. "You need to move forward with compassion and mercy, but also with energy for what lies ahead."