Juneau Douglas High School Men’s Basketball Season Cut short because of COVID Regulations

Juneau Douglas High School Men’s Basketball Season Cut short because of COVID Regulations

The Juneau Douglas High School men’s basketball team started off their 2021 season hot in January, winning 16 of their 17 games. After dominating the region V tournament and conference play to sweep the regular season and conference title, the Crimson Bears had their eyes on the state title.

But right after winning their conference tournament, the team got hit with unexpected news: their school district voted to not let them play in the state championships due to Covid-19 travel restriction. After the announcement that they will be the only team missing the state tournament, the team took to social media to fight for the end of their season. Prospect Athletics, a company who promotes amateur athletes as prospects for the college level, posted the Seniors for the Juneau Douglas men’s basketball team video on Instagram that showed the team’s seniors pleading for a reversal of their school board’s decision.

Cooper Kriegmont is a senior captain and veteran player on the team. This season, he averaged 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. He is still fielding college offers saying, “I’m still weighing my options, but right now I’m looking at a preferred walk-on spot at University of Montana.”

From before the season even began, Cooper says Covid-19 changed how the team behaved. “We usually have open gyms where adults and high schoolers play games. There’s often better competition with the older adults, and it helps get us ready for physical teams,” he says. “But since with all of the restrictions, open gyms were cancelled—which left us with nothing to do.”

Robert Casperson, Juneau Douglas Head men’s basketball head coach explains his frustration,  saying the cancellation of their season affected him and his team emotionally. 

 “A really big challenge that we faced as a team was getting the guys motivated and in shape,” he says. “The school gym didn’t open back up until December, so we only had a couple of weeks to get in our plays and defense, and had no time to condition because of Christmas break.” According to Healio.com, “ What we were fearing is when you have been shut down for a period of time and then the world opens up to sport, that the combination of deconditioning along with intense enthusiasm could lead to the high injury risk.” Without the right preparation and conditioning, athletes are more likely to have an increased risk of shoulder and elbow injuries and other injuries like the Tommy John injuries( Injury to the ligament on the inside of the body).

Pandemic restrictions on sports have affected players’ ability to go and work out on their own to  prepare themselves for the season. Gyms were closed for most of the off season so when the team finally got to play together, they were all excited. For seniors like Cooper who will graduate in May, this season represented the last chance to play for their team. 

Even though they were able to have a condensed season with limited travel, it’s been hard for everyone to miss the chance to compete for the state title. According to an interview on Juneau’s Kiny Radio with Ben Kriegmont, an assistant coach says, “It just seems like they are going to miss out on a sense of closure in what has been a long series of relationships that will stick with them their whole lives.” Cooper also expressed similar feelings. “It broke my heart. Since I was a kid I dreamed about winning a state championship. Years of dedication and hard work feels like it went to waste.”

In response, Juneau formed a club team and made a trip to Orange County, California, to play in one last tournament. Club teams typically are outside the school’s control, and is a team that players usually play for in the summer and travel to other places to play in tournaments. Since they were a club team, they were not required to follow the school district’s rules and regulations.

But even though they weren’t able to compete for a state title, Casperson says, “I learned to not take any group of kids and their memories for granted. Every group teaches you something as a coach, and this one grew with me the most because of our struggle and what we went through.”

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