Local ADs sense return to normalcy in 2021-22

By all accounts, David Edens’ professional timing couldn’t have been worse.

Edens took over as the Whiteland High School athletic director last summer, a time in which fear and uncertainty ran roughshod over traditional preparations due to the presence of a global pandemic.

Few schools felt the pinch of COVID-19 during the 2020-21 school year the way Whiteland did.

Six Warriors sports programs were impacted through either positive cases within the team that halted seasons for two weeks or specific individuals missing that same amount of time due to contact tracing. Moreover, the football team’s annual Week 9 showdown with Greenwood was canceled as a result of contact tracing.

Edens, however, prefers to view the glass as half-full.

“You know what? It almost worked to a first-year AD’s advantage,” he said. “Nobody had a book on how to do this. It was such an anomaly that this coming year will almost feel like my first year. The goal will be to improve our programs instead of trying to keep up with the ever-changing COVID rules.”

Wearing masks, social distancing, enforced sanitizing conditions and limited attendance for events were staples of last school year. More than once, Edens had to break the news to coaches and athletes that their season was about to experience a pandemic-related hiatus.

“The hardest part is addressing a group of student-athletes, and saying, ‘I’m sorry, but you can’t do this for a while,’” Edens said. “Especially the seniors. Those are not fun conversations.”

David Walden, who is entering his ninth year as the athletic director at Edinburgh, knows the feeling. The Lancers’ girls basketball season was stopped on three different occasions, taking away a total of six weeks of valuable practice time for coach Amy Schilling’s squad.

The 19 games were the fewest an Edinburgh girls basketball team played in a season since the 2008-09 club finished 7-12. During the spring, the Lancers’ baseball and track teams each experienced a two-week shutdown.

“There was so much uncertainty last year that we didn’t know if we would even be playing games week to week,” Walden said. “But I’m busier now than I was last year because we’re 100 percent full go unless the Indiana Health Department tells us differently.”

At Center Grove, last school year included many moving parts.

Not only were retiring athletic director Jon Zwitt and his eventual successor, then-assistant Scott Knapp, attempting to ensure athletic competition through the pandemic, the latter’s list of responsibilities gradually grew larger as the school year wore on.

Knapp’s official first day as AD was July 1, with new assistant Katie Fisher arriving the same day. He’s in the process of familiarizing Fisher with her job as they prepare for a fall season that appears as if it will be drastically different from a year ago.

“There were just so many unknowns going into last fall. As an AD, you’re always working ahead, so it was a big obstacle,” Knapp said. “I feel we’re getting closer to the way it used to be. I’m not a health expert, so we do as we’re told, (but) I am optimistic about this school year.”

Juggling the countless uncertainties did have its benefits, said Knapp, who became more familiar with online ticketing and how to manage events under pandemic guidelines.

All the same, he’ll always opt for a pre-2020 brand of normal.

“We just did the best we could with what we knew at the time,” Knapp said. “We were all doing it together. It wasn’t just Center Grove; it was everybody.”