When Will Phipps first came up with the idea for holding an awards banquet to honor Waco-area athletes and coaches, he never could have imagined how the world would change. He never would have expected large gatherings to essentially vanish.
But here we are. The inaugural Greater Waco Sports Awards banquet that was scheduled for June 30 has been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. Instead, Phipps and his team of volunteers will make plans to debut the awards on June 30, 2021, at the Waco Convention Center.
“The whole point of the Waco Sports Awards was to acknowledge the major achievements and celebrate the accomplishments of teams and athletes and coaches in the Waco area,” said Phipps, the director of the Greater Waco Sports Commission. “We didn’t feel like we could that in an appropriate manner this June, to properly bring recognition to those folks, unfortunately. It was a tough decision, one that many sporting events are having to do right now.”
The GWSC originally wanted to hold the Greater Waco Sports Awards in December of 2019. But it altered that plan when several athletes and teams it wanted to recognize had scheduling conflicts.
Phipps’ vision for the event is as an ESPYs-style black-tie banquet, complete with the accompanying red-carpet hoopla. McLennan County teams, athletes and coaches would be recognized, be they high school, college or even professional athletes.
The GWSC is clinging to that model for 2021. Ascension Providence has agreed to be the title sponsor for the banquet, Phipps said, and the Waco Convention Center has confirmed availability for next June. While details will still need to be finalized, the 2021 Greater Waco Sports Awards would also honor 2020 championship teams and athletes from the area, Phipps said.
“Several teams had deep runs in front of them that they never were able to make, like the basketball teams at Baylor,” Phipps said. “We’re going to try to find a way to do right by those teams. We may have to get creative. But the heart of the event is that those teams and kids and coaches deserve to be recognized.
“There are a lot of coaches who can’t wait for their seasons to open in McLennan County, and we know there will be plenty of competitive athletes who emerge during the 2020-21 cycle, along with those from this past year that didn’t get the opportunity to be recognized.”
Phipps acknowledged that attendance numbers are the great unknown for sporting events, banquets and luncheons in the COVID-19 age. But he said that he received good feedback from the community for the Greater Waco Sports Awards, and is hopeful that it would draw a large crowd next year.
“We are thankful to all of the businesses and individuals who have already purchased tables and have pledged to attend the sports awards in 2021,” Phipps said.