Things are far from perfect.
A vaccine for COVID-19 is here and will be distributed as quickly as it can, but local cases are on the rise heading into the holiday season, and no matter what your stance is on how the last nine months have unfolded, there is reason to be concerned as the New Year approaches.
Yes, you read that right. It’s been nine months since the world was turned upside down. For me the date that sticks out was March 10. That was the last day I went to a non-high school sporting event. That was until two days ago when I went to the Indianapolis Colts game.
With only 10,000 fans, cheers did not ring at near their normal levels, but nonetheless a sense of normalcy was made a reality for me.
The same has happened when I show up to a high school sporting event, and even turn the television onto ESPN.
Sure there was a hiatus in sports, the same as pretty much everything else last spring, but as they returned — they’ve pressed forward with more firepower and intensity than anything else.
Which looking back seems so ironic, when NBA player Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz’ positive test on March 11 is what shut everything down to begin with.
Schools have struggled to stay open, very few colleges and universities had a full campus of students for the fall semester, and many employees of large non-manufacturing companies are still working from home.
We wear a mask at the grocery store, distance ourselves at church, and if we are smart we will alter our 2020 Christmas plans.
Meanwhile sports have pressed on.
Major League Baseball successfully played a 60-game regular season and completed its postseason, the NBA and NHL were both widely applauded for their success completeing their respective playoff formats inside of a bubble. Now the NFL is entering week 16 of the season, and although there have been postponements, all games have been completed. And there have even been some fans in stadiums.
In college football, it’s been a mess, but they’ve marched on.
Now, is this all because of money? Absolutely.
But I’ll tell you where money doesn’t come into play.
High school sports.
High school sports returned normally in the fall with all the protocols and precautions in place to make it a successful season. And the fall seasons went almost uninterrupted. Round of applause goes to all that made that possible.
Now, the last eight weeks have been a much different story. Every local winter sports team has been impacted by positive tests within the schools that have led to quarantines. The reality is our student athletes and coaches are doing everything they’re suppose to do in order to compete, and no matter what, ‘Mother Nature’ is stepping in the way and stopping it. COVID-19 in the last month is like a never-ending rain storm in April that has canceled a week full of baseball and softball games. But what do those teams do? They continue to prepare for the next time they’re able to be out on the field. And that’s exactly what I’m seeing out of our local student athletes.
On Monday I caught the tail-end of Southmont’s wrestling practice, and longtime assistant coach Juan Grino pointed to the mats and told the guys ‘we are still here, and it’s a privelege to be here.’
High school athletes never know when the end might be. And instead of giving up and throwing in the towel, they are buckling down and getting to work. They are working harder now than they have ever before, because they’ve seen firsthand how quickly it can all end.
We’ve seen the struggles that students across the country have faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lack of a hot meal, an absence of authoritative figure, and going days and weeks without seeing friends. It’s been mentally and physically difficult.
School and extracurricular activities like sports have always been a safe place for students. A place where they can feel a part of something, laugh with their friends, and experience thrill that’s driven by their competitive spirit both in the classroom and on the ball fields.
COVID-19 is a horrible thing. It’s taken thousands of lives, and changed millions of more.
But with things like high school sports, we can start to heal. We can start to move forward, and we can continue to slowly find that normalcy.
My hat is tipped high and proud to everyone who has made high school sports possible to this point. I know it’s been tough, but I can promise you that’s been worth it. From the smiles on the faces, to the excitement that has followed all the success our local teams have had in the last four months — it’s been an incredible thing to witness and an absolute joyous thing to cover.
Please stay tuned to more in coming days about how some local athletes pushed past the pandemic last spring and summer and made all that hard work payoff once they returned to competition in August.
Jared McMurry was born and raised in Montgomery County and is the Sports Editor of the Journal Review. He can be reached by email at email@example.com and by phone at 765-918-8656. Follow him on Twitter @jaredmac26