LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Three days after Wellman-Union student athletes returned to campus for voluntary workouts on June 8, an assistant coach reportedly tested positive for Coronavirus.
“It was pretty disheartening,” said Athletic Director Brian Sepkowitz. “I don’t feel like I really had a chance to even panic, I guess about it. Because we just had made so much progress. As a coach you kind of forget the role that these kids play in our lives. You think about the role the coach has in their life, but these kids are like our children. So we didn’t get to have our babies for a few months and then they’re walking up, committing to the program and we got to send them away without any knowledge of how long it would be before we got them back.”
The news of a positive test caused immediate worry for parents of the athletes as well as the rest of the staff. Sepkowitz canceled workouts for the day, shut down practices, and had janitors come in to sanitize all of the equipment used for workouts. Over the next couple of days, all of the athletes and staff went to get tested.
Three-sport athlete Toby DePoyster said, “I was just scared because he was one of the coaches and we would bring it back to our families and it’d get them sick.”
While others weren’t too worried about being exposed to the virus, their focus shifted to the health of one of their own.
“I think I was just most sad for him. Just cause he was; we were ready to go and he was putting a lot into our program. We didn’t even make it a whole week. It was just like three days and everyone was home,” said Swayzee Harlan, a four-sport athlete at Wellman-Union.
The test results came back in days, showing all negative, even an additional one for the coach who originally tested positive. The coach was later given a third test to confirm he in fact did not have the virus. Those results were also negative, proving he was given a false positive test the first time around.
Harlan said, “It was a lot of weight taken off our shoulders. Definitely just not having to worry about it, but still coming back and taking precautions just to make sure that nothing like that happened again.”
After a week and a half back at home, the Wildcats and Lady Cats were cleared to return back to the practice field. Sepkowitz and his staff began taking even more precautions to try and avoid another scare. The staff are using this minor setback as a learning experience going forward.
“I know I speak for myself and our coaching staff and our administration - you hope that we’re all, myself included, learning from this,” he said. “We take for granted the time that we get with our kids and you just don’t know how much longer you’re going to get with them. So I think this was a good reminder to really push forward with loving our kids.”
Despite facing the early unexpected adversity, the student athletes are using this camp as motivation for their upcoming seasons.
Harlan said, “We had a setback that a lot of other schools didn’t have, but I think if we just keep pushing and working harder and our coaches keep pushing us, I think we’re going to come out stronger in the end.”
Coaches have continued to send workouts to student athletes who have decided not to return to the workouts because of the COVID-19 scare. Sepkowitz said he understands the risk and the choice some have made. He encourages them to stay home and stay safe, and return to the practice field whenever they are ready.