I write this as a teacher, a coach and a mother on behalf of every athlete who lost their season this past year and who is terrified to lose it this upcoming year. I am asking that we find a way to let them play.
My heart breaks for the class of 2020. What they lost will never be regained. State tournaments, entire athletic seasons; and those magical moments as an athlete that are never forgotten. My oldest of four was a junior this past year. He missed a track season that he had planned to be unforgettable: a second chance at state and a new school record, beating his grandfather’s 1975 still-standing record, all these goals within reach. Now, a track season forgotten.
The 2020-21 school year is approaching fast. Coaches, athletes and families wait, most with high levels of anxiety, to hear how the school year will begin and then unfold. Canceling the seasons would be easiest, but the most detrimental. With so much uncertainty around them, the upcoming senior student athletes are struggling to grasp what their final seasons will look like. My son is one of many.
My goal was to write this free from emotion. Unfortunately I lack that kind of strength. I am asking on behalf of every athlete, coach and family that we find a way. The mental and emotional health of these athletes is on the line.
Not all athletes find success in the classroom or in “distance learning." Some barely hold on to a passing grade, but what keeps them fighting and pushing through is eligibility. The continuous reminders of Friday lights, buzzer beating shots and state championships. Some athletes only succeed in the classroom to keep their moments on the fields, courts and ice.
Some athletes who struggle socially only find their confidence and determination among teammates. And some athletes, like my son, only find their inner strength when lined up on that defensive line waiting for the ball to snap. So much is on the line if seasons are canceled.
I recognize that we are in the middle of a pandemic and that I am not telling you anything you do not already know. But what you may not realize is how deep-down the cut will truly go into some of these upcoming senior athletes if they lose their seasons. These athletes, these children — and yes, they are still children — found their confidence, their strength and their drive when they found athletic success.
There needs to be a plan, and waiting until the last minute will make devising that plan difficult if not impossible. If we as parents and coaches think outside the box there are ways that we can make this happen: start the seasons earlier and in small groups; use release waivers, understanding the risk to exposure if they play; use clear visors for football players, forcing bodily fluids down; limit spectators and allow them to stand around the fields; and check temperatures before practices and games. These are just a few ideas, but there are more. We need to make this happen.
In this time of disparity, our state is in dire need of something positive. Let’s start here and find a way.