Pandemic Keeps Apprentice School Athletics on Hold
Published February 2, 2021
Over 70 years of tournaments and championships came to a screeching halt for Apprentice School athletes in March 2020. COVID-19 put the school’s athletic programs on hold for the first time since World War II. Now, nearly a year later, teams are still on hold with hopes to resume some normalcy soon.
When the NCAA canceled March Madness last year, Apprentice School Athletic Director Michael W. Allen knew COVID-19 was serious. And with many Apprentice School sports teams traveling all over the country, his priority was to get them home quickly and safely.
“We actually pulled our wrestling team off the mats in Texas in the middle of a tournament and flew them home immediately,” he said.
Once all teams were home safely, Allen turned to his coaches for support, relying on them to keep the athletes informed with frequent and transparent messaging. Because of the unique atmosphere the Apprentice School offers, he knew the athletes would support one another.
“We have tried to lay the foundation for that family atmosphere here, so I know they have had to rely on one another just to get through this tough challenge and uncertain time,” Allen said.
Apprentice School quarterback Mason Tatum used his time away from football to focus on his teammates, searching for ways to keep their spirits high.
“Staying here is a big opportunity. Football is not always going to be there. I tell my teammates to just push on and get through school – that’s what we are focusing on right now,” he said.
Tatum finds encouragement through the Athletic Leadership Council, which allows him to meet with other team leaders for support he can pass on to the football team.
“I try and remind the team that football will come back. We just don’t know when, but it will come back,” Tatum said.
Though other colleges are playing sports right now, Apprentice School officials say safety is the driving factor in deciding whether to play team sports. Not only is the safety of the athletes important, but all shipbuilders the students come into contact with every day at the shipyard.
“I wish we had a crystal ball so we knew what was around the corner, but we just don’t have one of those,” Allen said. “We are hoping that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel soon.”