TAHLEQUAH -- A decision to shut down athletics at Sequoyah High School for the first nine weeks of the fall semester has brought turmoil.
Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Todd Enlow knew it would be that way when he recommended to Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. to put a hold on fall athletics.
The decision was officially announced on Wednesday in a release by Cherokee Nation with continued COVID-19 concerns.
The nine week period, which will begin Aug. 17, will wipe out an entire season of fastpitch softball and volleyball and a large portion of the cross country and football schedules.
“Chief’s going to have the ultimate say on that, but it was my recommendation, a strong recommendation that we look at cancelling athletics for a while,” Enlow said on Friday. “Cherokee Nation’s unique in the sense that we’re a government, we’re a healthcare system, we’re an education system, we’re a job placement system, we’re an international corporation, we’re a food security organization...we’ve got all of these skill sets and resources and people that can help us make decisions collectively. We keep track of everything and we run nine clinics in a hospital, and we understand how the virus is moving in the communities, how people are getting and contracting the virus. We know what the effects of wearing a mask are, and social distancing.
“A rural school in Adair County or Mayes or Delaware doesn’t have access to all of those resources in the school system, so we utilize that and we try to make those decisions comprehensively, not just for Sequoyah, but child development centers and other places. We used all of that to form this decision. If you look at the State Board of Education’s recommendations, many of our counties around us are in orange level two, which means we shouldn’t be participating, based on the guidelines and the recommendations, we should not be participating in spectator sports.”
The decision has encountered resistance from coaches, student-athletes and the community. Pat Moore, hired in early June as the superintendent and boys’ basketball coach, resigned earlier this week.
“We’ve had some, some pretty outspoken,” Enlow said. “I’ve got friends that have kids that go to Sequoyah that have called me and were polite and respectful, but basically told me we didn’t care and we don’t know what we’re doing. It’s hard. Obviously there’s not an easy decision for any of us to make because we know what role sports plays in the community. But as far as the priorities of protecting lives and trying to save as many as we can and not put people in jeopardy, that’s ultimately why we make this decision.”
Enlow said he’s leaving the door open to resume sports if conditions allow.
“I would say the door’s open,” he said. “If our numbers are trending better we would go back and reevaluate. I’ll tell you right now, we’re still looking at ways to try and utilize resources we have to figure out ways to do sports. Just like the NBA, it’s created a bubble. Is there a way for us to do that with our student athletes and create that environment? I don’t know that we would do games against other teams, and I’m hopeful that other teams are gonna see the data and look at what’s out there and not feel comfortable.”
Enlow admitted that he’s concerned about what the long-term effects could have for athletics at Sequoyah.
“Yeah, I do, and that’s why this was not an easy decision because Sequoyah’s got a storied history in cross country, in basketball, in softball, in football, I mean all the sports and activities — drama club, band...we’ve got a pretty good extracurricular program,” he said. “We’ve reached out to the OSSAA (Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association) and asked them to consider the impacts of what the pandemic is having on the communities as a collective across the state and we’ve also talked to them about what eligibility looks like for...because we don’t want to get in the way of any of our students. I’m concerned if they want to go to another school and play, I’m concerned about their health. But we don’t want to stand in their way and that’s why we made the decision and made the announcement when we did because we wanted to be fair and upfront with those parents and with those students if they needed to make that tough decision to go to another school.”
In fastpitch softball, the Lady Indians were scheduled to open their season on Aug. 10 at home against Salina. The volleyball team was slated to open its season against Chouteau on Aug. 13, cross country was scheduled to open in Stroud on Aug. 15, and football was to open at home against Muldrow on Sept. 4.