Spring sports shut down because of COVID-19 pandemic.
Elisha Cooper really wanted to play soccer this spring for Frankel Jewish Academy.
The spread of COVID-19, which has caused a public health crisis around the world and the cancellation of high school spring sports in the state by the Michigan High School Athletic Association, closed the curtain on that chapter of Cooper’s life.
This was going to be Cooper’s fourth year as a starting defender on the FJA girls soccer team.
“That was the plan,” the senior said.
After missing about half of the FJA girls basketball season this winter because of a concussion, Cooper was cleared to play the final few basketball games and in the soccer season.
“This soccer season would have been my last hurrah, my last season playing for FJA,” Cooper said. “I’m sad, but with all that’s happening in the world, I wasn’t surprised by the (MHHA’s) decision.”
FJA senior Eli Grey began the school year on a high note. He made it all the way to the semifinals at No. 3 singles in the Division 4 state boys tennis tournament.
It was his fourth year on the FJA boys tennis team.
Grey was looking forward to his fourth season as the starting catcher on the FJA baseball team.
“Not being to play baseball for FJA this spring is disappointing because I won’t be able to create memories with my teammates,” he said. “But I wasn’t surprised when I heard about the decision to cancel the season.”
Senior Mitch Blackman transferred to FJA from Walled Lake Western High School before his junior year, and he ended up playing tennis, basketball and baseball for the Jaguars.
He would have been a shortstop and pitcher this spring on the FJA baseball team.
“I was looking forward to my final season at FJA,” he said. “What’s happened made me realize you have to cherish your good memories.”
FJA was supposed to have teams in five sports this spring.
About 60-65 athletes, approximately half of the school’s enrollment, were going to play baseball, softball, boys golf, girls soccer and girls tennis.
“Playing sports is part of our culture at FJA,” Cooper said.
She should know.
Cooper did a class project in the fall that argued that FJA should require students to participate in extra-curricular activities.
As part of her research, she discovered that of the 146 students enrolled at FJA in the 2018-19 school year, 102 students participated in at least one sport and there were 12 multi-sport athletes.
In addition, she learned that 18 girls were planning to play tennis, 16 girls were planning to play soccer and 16 boys were planning to play baseball this spring.
Cooper, Grey and Blackman are all going to college, but their competitive athletic careers are over.
Cooper, 17, a West Bloomfield resident, is headed to the University of Michigan. Grey, 17, who lives in Bloomfield Hills, is going to Michigan State University. Blackman, 17, of Novi, also is going to MSU.
FJA Athletic Director Rick Dorn said the MHSAA was wise to delay its final decision on spring sports, and the organization ultimately made the correct decision to cancel them.
“I anticipated that spring sports were going to be called off,” Dorn said. “The day the NCAA canceled spring sports (March 12), I knew that day was going to come for us.”
The MHSAA halted winter sports temporarily March 12 and stopped all athletic activities temporarily March 16.
The rest of the winter sports season and the spring sports season were canceled April 3 by the MHSAA, one day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s directive to close school buildings for the rest of the academic year.
Josh Birnberg, first-year coach of the West Bloomfield High School baseball team, finished tryouts March 12 and never got to hold his first practice as coach.
“I was hoping we’d play this season, but it was false hope,” he said. “I’m disappointed, but not for myself. I’ll coach next season. I’m disappointed for my eight seniors.”
Birnberg is also a hitting and fielding instructor at High Performance Training in Keego Harbor. That job also is on hold because of COVID-19.