Kane girls basketball coach Brandon Troutman is in a unique position.
As both a coach and someone who works in the medical field (he is a radiographer at Kane Community Hospital), his thoughts on COVID-19 and how it’s affecting everyone involved, especially given the latest three-week PIAA shutdown handed down from Governor Tom Wolf on Thursday, carry more weight than most.
“I’m sure I’m not the only coach who works in the medical field, but it does give you a unique perspective,” Troutman said. “From a basketball standpoint, everyone is on a level playing field now.”
What Troutman is referring to, of course, is the fact that each school and winter sports team, it would appear, will re-start at the same time. That might not be the case in all instances, depending on what individual school districts decide, but nevertheless would seemingly create a more level playing field than the one currently in place, which was very scattered in terms of who was playing and who wasn’t.
“Everybody is level now,” Troutman said. “It’s nice. It’s also different from fall sports, where some teams got going sooner than others.”
It still stings, however.
“It breaks my heart for all these kids,” said Warren girls basketball coach Lisa LaVan. “You think you’re over the hump, and they do everything right and again it gets taken away.”
For Clarion boys basketball coach Scott Fox, he knows his players are discouraged as well, but that they will bounce back.
“The players are disappointed,” Fox said. “They have put in a lot of hard work over the past six weeks and were excited to play our first game tomorrow. To have that taken away from them … they will come back and be ready to go when we are able to start.”
Same goes for LaVan and her program, as they are already preparing for what comes next.
“I just got done talking to my leaders, trying to lay out a plan for the next three weeks of what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it,” LaVan said. “We’ve stressed one day at a time and today wasn’t a good day. We have to pivot and figure out what we’re going to do. We’re going to be ready to go and jump back into it come Jan. 4.
One of those leaders is her daughter, junior Emma Ruhlman, a third-team Class 5A all-state selection last season and a preseason All-District 10 selection.
“Getting this news one day before tip-off is really crushing,” Ruhlman said. “I know me and my teammates were beyond excited and ready to go. We’ve been working really hard the last few weeks and it’s been a lot of fun. We just want to play. Personally, I’ve been working toward bettering myself for this season since the last quarantine in March and it just sucks to have the opportunity to showcase what I’ve been training for taken away.”
That Jan. 4 date is when teams can start practicing again, provided nothing changes between then and now.
“I’m disappointed for the players, especially the seniors,” Fox said. “It’s a tough time for these kids. But they are going to be ready to play when we come back. They are hungry for the competition.”
Added Troutman: “When the chance is there, they’ll be ready to go.”
So will Ruhlman.
“I’m hopeful that in three weeks things will be better and with that time I know my teammates and I will work hard to stay ready to go,” Ruhlman said. “I might have to bust out the snow gear though to get my shots up.”