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Dead period has begun for local high schools

June 23rd, 2014 10:30 pm by Douglas Fritz

Dead period has begun for local high schools

The Walking Dead weeks are upon us.

Ok, so I dramatize, but Sunday marked the beginning of the TSSAA-mandated Summer Dead Period (hey, they capitalized it, so I will, too).

But despite it’s name, it’s not about death but more about living life with fewer regrets. Follow me, and I will explain (no, really, follow me on Twitter @FritzBlitzzz).

Here is how the TSSAA describes it’s dead period: No coaching, observing, or contact between coach and players. There is no practice, no open facilities, and no weight training/conditioning. The dead period, which is to be observed by all schools, is the week of the Fourth of July and the preceding week for a total of 14 days. This year it ends on July 5.

The organization that governs high school athletics created the Walking Dead weeks (there I go again) to give kids and their families a break from coaches who simply can’t take a break from themselves. Some coaches are so caught up in getting one centimeter ahead (that’s 0.393701 inches in case you were wondering; and you wonder why we didn’t convert to the metric system after all those threats to do so in the 1970s!) that they can’t put the ball down and take a vacation themselves — unless forced to do so.

So the TSSAA forced them. Well, they can’t force the coaches to take a vacation, but they can keep them from making any requirements on the kids.

Here’s the thing: Kids should take advantage of this time. If your family is blessed enough to afford a couple of days at the beach, go. Body surf, eat a corn dog, and play mini golf and arcade games (preferably not all at the same time).

If your family’s budget groans at the mere mention of travel, then catch a movie and eat one of those big buckets of popcorn at Carmike. Or even more cheaply, grab the two-footlong-subs-for-$10 special and go some place where there’s water and a breeze and spend time with mom, dad and sissy or bro.

The point is this: High school years used to be a time of making memories with your family. These days, it’s more about the number of Facebook friends you have (by the way, I could use some more “likes” at See what I mean? I’m still doing it at my age (none of your business, but the big sign ahead of me appears to say, “Approaching your fifth decade,” but I can’t see it without my contact lenses).

So now my mom is over 70, and so is my dad. They haven’t been married to each other since 1978 (I remember because dad moved out and we got cable TV for the first time, and I couldn’t believe I could actually watch the Braves; dad thought cable was too expensive, but mom took his child-support check and hooked us up). So it’s 2014 now, and I can’t go on vacation with mom and dad together. Not to mention the fact mom has Parkinson’s Disease and just moved into assisted living. Dad had a heart attack in 2012, was revived twice, and hasn’t been the same, mentally, since. Yes, this column just got dramatically serious.

So please don’t waste the opportunity these two weeks afford. If your family is intact, build a foundation for later in life with a fun memory. If your family is broken, soothe the wounds with heartfelt time together.

And when the two weeks are over, get back to busting your butt to beat your biggest rival.


In the third installment of the Positive Program Direction rankings, it’s time to take a look at baseball and softball.

With each ranking, a reason will be given. Because this is a forward-looking process, the rankings are of course subjective:

1. Daniel Boone softball — Any time a program loses a standout coach, there’s the potential for a less-than-rosy outlook. But when the school system replaces one successful coach (Rick Wagner) with another successful coach (Jeremy Jenkins), it points to an emphasis on the program and shines the way for a bright future.

2. Unicoi County baseball and Volunteer softball — Rare talents can make a world of difference for a program. When a team has a pitching talent like Brandon Garland (Blue Devils) or Morgan Marshall (Lady Falcons), it not only gives it a starting edge on the rest of the competition, it can also make the rest of the players realize their stepped-up efforts could lead to great things — like reaching the state tournament and making some noise.

3. Greeneville softball — This is a program on the cusp of even greater things. The Lady Greene Devils were knocking at the door of a Class AA state championship in 2014, pulling off the rare feat of beating the eventual champion (Dyersburg) in the state tournament. There’s reason to believe this team will be in The ‘Boro mix again in 2015.

4. Unicoi County softball — A healthier version of the 2014 Lady Blue Devils could be more than anybody wants to try to handle in 2015. The return of Taylor Wright to an already stacked lineup puts Unicoi back in the Class AA state-title conversation.

5. Elizabethton softball and Happy Valley softball — It’s a tale of two programs being led by hard-working and good-leadership coaches. Kenny Hardin’s return to the Lady Cyclones won’t make the players more talented. However, his work ethic will help the players come very close to maxing out their abilities.

As for Happy Valley, standing toe to toe with Elizabethton this year — and even having the Lady Cyclones down on the mat for the count in the district tournament —  shows the Lady Warriors and Coach Mike Dorsey are on the right path.

Others in the mix: Dobyns-Bennett baseball, Daniel Boone baseball, University High softball, Sullivan South baseball, North Greene baseball.

Douglas Fritz is a staff writer for the Johnson City Press. You may contact him at

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