Dischner looks back at crazy year it was

While everyone has had their challenges during the COVID-stricken 2020-21 school year, Michael Dischner definitely faced and overcame plenty of obstacles.
Yuma School District-1’s activities director constantly had to navigate an ever-changing landscape.
It actually all began in mid-March 2020 when everyone was sent home and the school year concluded with remote learning.
“I forget sometimes that we didn’t even have baseball, track and girls golf that spring,” he said recently, after finally getting a break following a most unusual interscholastic schedule that did not conclude until the end of June.
While missing interacting with the students, Dischner was able to do all the high school and middle school schedules for 2020-21.
“I thought all my work was done because I thought we would go back to normal in the fall,” he said, “but we didn’t go back to normal.”
Not in the least.
CHSAA finally announced last summer revamped sports calendar, complete with shortened seasons, COVID restrictions and protocols to follow.
Only boys golf, cross country and softball were given the go-ahead for fall seasons, which was called Season A.
Athletic directors such as Dischner scrambled to get new schedules in place.
CHSAA had pushed football back to Season C in the late winter-early spring. However, the pressure to have fall football was enough that CHSAA finally announced it would run October through early December. Dischner caught a break in that CHSAA did all the scheduling for the six-game regular season. (Schools still had the option of doing Season C football, though all in this region chose to go with the late fall season.)
YHS ran into its first hassle in mid-September, when the school had its first positive case, resulting in a large percentage of the students going into a 14-day quarantine.
The softball team was unable to do anything for two weeks in the middle of its schedule.
“Then we came back straight to two league doubleheaders so we could get those in,” Dischner said.
The cross country team was able to avoid any major disruptions, but the boys golf team only got to take two golfers to the regional tournament.
However, the fall seasons also created one of the positives that came out of the whole situation. Without any volleyball and, initially, football, the softball and cross country teams saw a big jump in participation. Dischner even had to schedule a JV softball schedule due to the numbers.
Yuma also ended up hosting a cross country meet at Indian Hills Golf Course for the first time in several years.
“One of my favorite things last fall was the cross country meet we hosted,” Dischner said. “I love hosting stuff because I think we have the best facilities and the community is so supportive.”
He recalls the big crowd at the course cheering on the runners, particularly as they came around the No. 3 tee box, and then also at the nearby finish line.
“It was really fun to see that,” Dischner said.
The quarantine cut into the preseason preparations for the football team, resulting in the Indians opening the season on a Monday night in Limon.
However, the football team was able to get in its full season without interruptions, until it came to the extra “seventh game” for teams that did not qualify for the eight-team playoffs. YHS again was hit by quarantine impacting many of its older players. The Indians initially were to play University, but with so many varsity players out, Dischner decided to drop 2A University and instead scheduled fellow 1A school Prospect Ridge Academy.
The Indians, which did have some key varsity players available, cruised to a big win playing mostly the JV team, allowing them to finish with a 4-3 record.
There still were some more hassles, such as basketball being moved from an early January start to early February, and then back to the middle of January. The boys team ended up having one positive test that resulted in a quarantine that forced the Indians to miss their last four games of the regular season.
Dischner said that probably was the time he was most put-out by health officials. The local health department was saying the players had to quarantine for 14 days, which would have taken them out of the postseason. However, the state had just changed its rules, allowing for 10 days. Dischner spent time visiting with state officials, and finally convinced local health officials of the 10-day window, allowing for the Indians to return just in time for the postseason, advancing to the state semifinals.
He also noted the frustration at the fact players were required to wear masks during games, but still were penalized with a quarantine on one positive test.
Still, there still were positives during that Season B. Dischner said it was fun to host, on the same day, duals for the girls and boys wrestling teams in the district’s four games — the boys at YMS and Morris Elementary, and the girls in the two YHS gyms.
“We’re using that momentum to host a boys dual tournament next season (in February),” Dischner said.
YHS also will host a December basketball tournament for varsity and JV, as originally scheduled last season before all of this occurred.
Dischner noted all the YHS teams enjoyed some level of success, including the volleyball team reaching the Class 2A tournament again in Season C, and the boys winning the 2A track and field title last month in Season D. Plus, two members of the girls golf team advanced to state in June.
However, he said he thinks the girls track and field team was impacted by the fact volleyball overlapped the spring sports.
The Lower Platte Activities Association ended up using Dischner’s scheduling for basketball and volleyball. He said he is not good at sitting around waiting for email responses, so he scheduled out the seasons, and the LPAA ended up using them.
And finally, perhaps, the most real positive from this long, strange trip we’ve been in — live streaming of athletic contests and other student activities. (Remember, too, that YMS teams played extremely-abbreviated seasons, and visiting fans were not allowed to attend junior high volleyball and basketball games.)
First, though, one should probably touch on the toughest aspects of this past school year — spectator limits. Besides having to tell students they would have to be quarantined and could not play sports during that time, Dischner said one of the toughest things was the spectator restrictions throughout most of the school year. There were some incidences of irate community members, but Dischner said that by and large everyone was understanding and cooperative whether they liked it or not.
What it did do, though, was prompt schools into live streaming events so anyone could watch.
The NFHS had offered all schools free cameras, but they were one-site devices that could not be moved from one venue to another.
Therefore, YHS and many other schools decided to invest in their own equipment, broadcasting either on Facebook and/or YouTube, which allowed people from anywhere to watch easily for free, and even watch the recording at a later time. Luckily, area schools had people like Jeremy Weathers of Stormy Productions available to guide them through the process.
Dischner noted that the online aspect is not just about athletic events and other activities, but also in education as a whole.
“I feel education has progressed in the last 1-1/2 years than it has in the last 60 years,” he said. “We’ve been forced to go digital and online. Education has changed so much in a short time.”
Capabilities to remote learn probably will remain part of the landscape, as will broadcasting your local high school sports contests. It also has forced staffers such as Dischner into becoming proficient at online broadcasts.
“(YHS Principal Brady Nighswonger) is always joking he is glad he isn’t the AD anymore,” Dischner said.
Now that there is widespread knowledge on how to use the equipment, particularly students getting involved, Dischner said he wants to continue live-streaming everything the school possibly can.
“There has been a lot of thanks for bringing that coverage,” he said, noting relatives, and others, who live far away, or cannot attend for any reason, now can watch online. “I don’t see any disadvantage bringing that extra exposure.
See? Some good has come out of all of this.
However, Dischner said he is anxious to get back to a more-normal schedule. As of now all inter-scholastic high school sports in Colorado are set to return to their pre-COVID itinerary. Plus, maybe things will be a bit more normal in the schools.
“I just feel like last year we never even had a chance to get out of the office much, visit classrooms and with the kids,” Dischner said. “That year was just crazy.”