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COVID-19 brought battle on and off court for Arizona high school coach

Clint Treadway, boys basketball coach at Arizona College Prep in Chandler. (Courtesy Photo)

This story is part of KTAR News’ “Pandemic in Arizona: One Year In” special report on 92.3 FM, online and our app.

PHOENIX – The coronavirus pandemic took a big toll on what has always been an escape for students and parents – high school sports.

Clint Treadway, varsity boys basketball coach at Arizona College Prep in Chandler, says coaching and playing with masks was something he never expected to see in his lifetime.

“Up until a year ago I don’t think I’d ever worn a mask except when my son was born,” Treadway said. “Now we’re playing with it and it’s common nature.”

Practice tipped off last June as the pandemic was hitting the state hard and safety measures were in full force.

“They couldn’t be within six feet of each other. They couldn’t share a ball and had to bring their own basketballs. They couldn’t pass to each other,” Treadway said.

“We were putting spots and cones on the floor to keep them six feet apart. That was a shock for the players. When we took breaks, we had to tell them not to sit next to each other.”

The Knights coach says they started the season shorthanded.

“Five players didn’t start the season including three seniors who are starters because they decided the COVID-19 numbers were so high – 33% of my roster. They eventually all returned to the team.”

Treadway says reaction to playing the season was mixed among parents. Some wanted their kids on the court, others were opposed.

“Initially we had several parents that didn’t feel comfortable with their players coming in. My four-year point guard couldn’t come in. I didn’t see him until October.

“I actually opened up the gym for him and one other player just so they could get some shots up because their parents didn’t want them around anybody.”

Treadway says coaching during the pandemic has been a huge challenge, but he believes it brought coaches and players even closer.

“It was such a roller coaster, so many ups and downs,” he said. “But at least we experienced it together. Any time you go through hard times or good times, they were able to bond. We went on a hike together and some other stuff and that was a great experience. So I think they grew closer.”

Looking down the road to a year from now he would love to see the bleachers packed with parents and students at games and the pandemic hopefully in the past. And he’s looking forward to tossing away the mask.

“I hope it goes back to the way it was. My biggest shock as a coach was having to wear a mask and the players couldn’t read my lips or see my facial expressions. Facial expressions are a really important part of communicating.”

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