April 29, 2020

Hun School Formally Cancels its Spring Sports Season; PDS, Stuart on Hold, Awaiting Update from Governor

GAME OFF: Hun School Director of Athletics Bill Quirk, left, and his wife, Kathy, discuss strategy in their roles as coaches of the Hun softball team during a game in the 2016 season. Last week, Quirk and the school’s administration formally canceled its 2020 spring sports season, concluding that it would not have time to compete in the wake of Gov. Phil Murphy’s decision to keep schools closed through May 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As schools across New Jersey were shut down by Gov. Phil Murphy in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Hun School was hopeful that it could hold an abbreviated spring sports season starting in May.

But with Governor Murphy’s later decision to extend the school closure to May 15, time has run out on Hun and it formally canceled its spring campaign last week.

“We tried to hold off as long as we could,” said Hun Director of Athletics Bill Quirk of the decision, which comes in the wake of the Peddie School and the Lawrenceville School having previously pulled the plug on their spring seasons.

“Once the governor kept moving that date back with us being scheduled to graduate on May 27, by the time we would come back, there would be only nine days of school.”

For Quirk, who also serves as an assistant coach of the Hun softball team, the cancellation was a tough pill to swallow.

“Spring is one of those seasons where you see the kids working out all the time from September on,” said Quirk. “The teaser was that the majority of them got to go on their spring break trips and then they come home and find out that basically was your season. It is disheartening.”

In trying to salvage the season, Quirk had been in frequent contact with administrators and fellow athletic directors.

“There are a lot of people out there thinking ‘hey since there are no sports, you guys are just sitting around,’” said Quirk. “That is not happening, there is a lot of work. As my wife Kathy says to me, you are sitting in front of that computer more than you do when you are in the office. I am busy between Zoom meetings with the administration on a weekly basis and on the state level, with both public and independent meetings. We were trying to save things. Now is the time where we are trying to schedule for the fall.”

Even though there have been no games, matches, or meets, the Hun coaches and athletes have tried their best to keep active.

“We have a strength and conditioning staff so they have set up programs for the kids,” added Quirk. “The coaches have done some of their own and they have been in contact. Tracey (Co-Athletic Director Tracey Arndt) and I try to stay in contact on a weekly basis with the coaches to see how they are doing. It has been very hard to keep everybody motivated; the one thing I am learning from all of this is people like to be in contact with people.”

Over at the Princeton Day School, its spring athletics program is in a holding pattern depending on Gov. Murphy’s next move.

“Our plan is to follow the governor’s decision,” said PDS Upper School Director of Athletics Tim Williams. “We hope to retry after the 15th and see where we are at the point. We would definitely love to have something to celebrate our seniors.”

With no games having been played so far this spring, Williams has made sure to recognize seniors and other spring athletes through social media shout-outs.

“We have had senior spotlights; when all of this happened, we had postcards tweeted of all the spring seniors, saying whatever team they on,” said Williams. “Then I did a postcard of the teams with a list of names. Then we did other postcards for the seniors playing sports at college because we were not able to do a college signing picture.”

The PDS athletics staff has kept busy remotely. “Our coaches have done a really nice job of using the technology available,” said Williams. “We were using Google Meet and they are doing that a couple of times a week. They are always communicating and sharing their weekly workouts. Coaches have also been reaching out to the kids individually as well. I have been holding Google meetings a couple of times a week with the coaches and then once a week we are doing our coaches roundtable and getting everybody together and talking about stuff.”

Across Great Road from PDS, Stuart Country Day School is likewise holding out hope for some spring sports.

“Just like for the school, it goes hand in hand; we are waiting for the governor to make his announcement on what is going to happen after May 15th,” said Stuart Athletic Director Justin Leith.

If students can return to school in May, Leith would like to put together some competition, no matter how brief.

“With all the ADs that I speak with, everybody would really like to give the seniors a send-off,” said Leith. “Of course we feel for all of the students who don’t get to participate in athletics this spring but particularly for those seniors. It would be nice to have something, we just don’t know what that is going to be. It may just be one weekend.”

In the meantime, the Stuart coaches are keeping their athletes busy virtually.

“All of our coaches have given the kids stuff to do on their own,” said Leith. “It varies by team. I have been very clear to the coaches that they need to stay within the state guidelines on social distancing and make sure that they are not meeting up together.”

Once everyone can be together again on the field, Leith believes there will be a feeling of joy.

“Initially, I think there may be some apprehension but after that it will be celebrated by everyone,” said Leith. “It is something that has never happened in anyone’s lifetime. We will look back on it and cherish the time you do have out there because it can just get turned off.”

Williams, for his part, believes that the resumption of games will lead people to cherish all that is involved in athletics.

“Whenever it does happen, it definitely will mean more to people,” said Williams. “My hope is people will value what they have and just appreciate it. Not that they don’t already but whenever things are taken away, you value them in a different way. I think this is definitely that type of situation. If you can pull any silver lining out of what we were are doing, it is helping people appreciate what we have and when we get back, how great it is.”

In the view of Quirk, getting through the current situation should end up fostering a greater sense of community extending beyond athletics.

“I think everybody — players, parents, and spectators — is certainly going to appreciate being able to come out and see things first hand,” said Quirk. “I just think in the long run, we are going to see a much more supportive society, realizing things that we took for granted.”