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Athletic directors, coaches innovate after spring sports cancelation

Mike Vidakovich
Post Independent correspondent
Roaring Fork High School Athletic Trainer Ryan Erickson has been working at Valley View Hospital since the school closures and cancelation of spring sports.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Out of work with the cancelation of the spring sports season, Roaring Fork High School’s athletic trainer and track and field coach, Ryan Erickson, immediately got right to work in an essential field during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Erickson, unlike some high school sports coaches, is not a salaried teacher. So, he was essentially out of a job March 13 when all spring athletics and activities were suspended and ultimately canceled by the Colorado High School Activities Association. 

His and other athletic trainer positions in the Roaring Fork School District are, however, supported by Valley View Hospital, and he was placed in a pool of applicants to fill some of the critical jobs that needed to be done during the pandemic. 

“I have been busy, but in a different way,” Erickson said. “I’ve been working full-time at Valley View Hospital helping out with all departments, but also working with virus-infected patients, as well.”

Erickson, like many others, was caught off guard by the shutdown of schools and athletics due to the current health crisis across the country.

“It was kind of weird how abruptly things happened,” he recalled. “On the afternoon of March 12, the girls’ soccer team was on the bus headed for a game in Grand Junction and they got taken off the bus and things ended there. 

“I can’t help but have thoughts of what might have been. As the weather has gotten warmer, things have been especially tough because this was the time of year when the playoffs started,” Erickson said. “The state track meet is always a highlight of my year. I’ll miss watching all of those great athletes come together and compete. Not being around the kids has started to hit pretty hard.”

Erickson has always been on the front lines for the Carbondale athletes. Now, he continues to serve the broader population in a much bigger and selfless capacity.

With spring gaining momentum toward summer, Glenwood Springs High School Athletics Director Craig Denney would normally be so busy that he’d be meeting himself coming and going. 

Baseball, track, swimming, girls soccer, golf and tennis would all be nearing regional and state playoff competition. Denney, right in the middle of attending events and making sure all schedules are correct and details for athletes and coaches are ironed out, would face sun-up to sun-down days until the last whistle of spring sports sounded in late May.

The current closing of schools to in-classroom learning and springs sports being nonexistent has now put Denney in unfamiliar territory that he is not quite comfortable with.

“I was looking out the back window of my house the other morning and watching the grounds crew mowing the field,” Denney said. “I just wish we were able to use that field.”

Denney and his assistant, Jordan DeCrow, have stayed busy during these trying days doing school-related tasks that would normally be on the back burner due to time constraints.

“Jordan and I have been doing a lot of busywork that we usually wouldn’t have time for. We’re focused right now and trying to possibly get something planned for graduation. These seniors deserve some type of closure to their high school careers.”

At Rifle High School, academics has been the first order of business for Damon Wells, who serves as the Bears’ head football coach, while also taking on the athletics director and assistant principal duties.

“Mostly, from a teaching standpoint, we have been looking at how to get kids back in the building next fall and safely and effectively educate them,” Wells said. “With the football players, we can forward to them different strength and conditioning exercises. We really are blessed to have all of this technology. These kids are digital natives; they’re much more attuned to learning this way than us adults are. But mostly, we miss the kids and we love them.”

This season would have been the 25th installment as head baseball coach for Troy Phillips at Rifle High. Much like Wells, Phillips, who teaches English, has been diving into school work first and foremost. But he misses the snap-of-the-mitt and crack-of-the-bat rite of spring that has been a big part of his life for over two decades and counting.

“I’ve gotten quite a bit of yard work done, much more than in past years,” Phillips said with a light-hearted chuckle. “I’ve been getting adjusted to the online learning that we are doing, but I certainly do miss being out on the field with the kids and building the relationships. We have a summer baseball schedule that takes up most of June, but we are in a holding pattern with that right now.”


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