Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Influenza proving to be tougher than any opponent as virus sidelines area basketball players
The Duncanville girls basketball team has survived against tough opponents such as Plano West, Cedar Hill and Mansfield Timberview during its 59-game winning streak. But the toughest opponent was probably the flu.
Over the last month, nearly every player on the state’s top-ranked Class 5A team has suffered through bouts with it.
“After the holiday break,” coach Cathy Self-Morgan said, “our locker room sounded like an infirmary.”
A lot of locker rooms have sounded like that since the flu started its fast break across the area in the fall.
The South Grand Prairie girls and Arlington Seguin boys have each had two players miss practices or games because of the flu, and the Skyline boys and Flower Mound Marcus girls have each had four sidelined. Six of the 15 players on the Carrollton Prince of Peace girls team have missed practices because of flu symptoms, and the Prince of Peace boys team canceled a game because of the flu.
Although few games have been canceled, the flu virus has hit hard this season. Dozens of teams reported having players with flu-like symptoms, and many teams had multiple players who were out with the flu.
DeSoto, the state’s top-ranked 5A boys team, went more than a week without a full roster for practice. The Mansfield Timberview girls and North Dallas boys teams had so many players out at one point that they canceled a practice. DeSoto girls coach Larry Goad said it’s the worst he’s seen in four years. West Mesquite girls coach Darrin Samuels said nearly every player and coach on his varsity team has suffered through flu-like symptoms.
Of course, where there’s one player with the flu, there’s bound to be another. The virus can spread easily amongst teammates who are slapping hands, huddled during timeouts and sharing a locker room. Coaches have emphasized frequent hand-washing, made hand sanitizers available to the players and are adding disinfectant to the locker rooms.
“The kids are sick of the Lysol smell,” Self-Morgan said.
Coaches have also been sending some players home. Lake Highlands girls coach Holly Mulligan rejected one player’s request to suit up for a game because she wasn’t yet over the flu, and Melissa boys coach Clint Sadler pulled a player from a game who tried to come back too soon.
Melissa players who miss practice are usually required to do extra running, but Sadler told his players that wouldn’t be the case if they missed because of flu-like symptoms. The players might want to fight through it, he said, but the team ultimately suffers.
“Next thing you know,” Sadler said, “you have five kids out.”
It’s better to sit out and get healthy, which Self-Morgan now knows well. The coach, who has 946 career wins, was suffering from flu-like symptoms when she fainted during a practice Dec. 21. She went to the hospital, got hydrated, and then coached that night in a game against Cedar Hill.
And then all the players started getting sick.
“I wanted to coach so bad, but I guess I exposed the kids,” Self-Morgan said. “Or I guess they could’ve got it from somewhere else.”
It has certainly been easy to find.
Follow Matt Wixon on Twitter at @mattwixon