As the days passed, it became clear.
But when the sun rose, and you walked outside from your imposed purgatory, the spring air felt warmer, the flowers bloomed and hope restored.
You’d keep thinking, this is the day. You probably raced to the television to see. There just had to be a breaking news report that the coronavirus pandemic ended. A closer look, however, revealed it rages on to ravage the country and others around the globe.
Inside your home, your heart told you, stay positive. But your mind told you different.
Weeks away from your friends. No walks through the crowded hallways. No classes that you once fought to stay awake through. Practices with teammates canceled, gates at the facility you once called a second home, closed and shuttered with chains and padlocks.
The world you once knew had slowed.
Then, it all came to a crashing finish. Students won’t return to their classrooms. Our admired athletes won’t enjoy their thrills and glory of sports. They will miss their proms and in many ways their Class Nights and Graduation ceremonies won’t be the same.
INTERSCHOLASTIC SEASONS CANCELED
Our kids, grow up so fast, we know. But this turned into a pole vault into adulthood.
We all cope with tragedy and setbacks in different ways. Each time my job required me to chat with a high school athlete who had their dreams shattered and their seasons ripped from them, they each responded with maturity and poise. They never dug too deep inside their emotions, most likely fearful of the vitriol often spewed in everybody’s direction on their social media platforms that take up too much of their time.
This is a global tragedy. Thousands are dying. Millions are sick. People are wearing masks in public while most are staying secluded inside the confines of their home compounds.
The situation is dire. And that face is not lost to any of the young people. How could something so trivial as losing a sports season be in the big picture?
That keeps these teenagers, mature beyond their years, from letting loose, breaking down and gushing tears.
What they won’t say, or are too afraid to, is that the decision to close schools and cease athletic events, as crucial as this measure is to continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, stinks for them. It hurts. It tore their hearts out and made them sick to their stomachs.
PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi fought through his emotions Thursday afternoon. His voice cracked and trembled as if he were delivering a eulogy.
“Sports is our world.”
In the frantic fight to save lives, the swelling of love and compassion to those on the front lines, the focus on the horror we see on those screens each night on the news, we forget everybody is being affected in so many ways by this tragedy.
To most, sports are recreational. A way to spend free time. They are games we play. The outcomes really don’t matter in comparison to a world crisis.
These kids are quite frankly just that. They are kids. Kids who do understand and worry for those who are suffering much more than a lost sports season. It would behoove those quickly triggered by their heartache to keep that in mind when passing undeserved judgment in their direction. Sports still mean a great deal to them.
So forgive them for their anger, frustration and sadness in the immediacy of the decision to cancel their seasons.
LOCAL ATHLETES DEAL WITH ABRUPT END TO CAREERS
At a very young age, many of today’s high school students were introduced to their best friends through sports. They learned lessons of value, even if detractors can’t see or refuse to understand them.
Sports build and shape character. Athletes face and conquer adversity by working as a team. Kids put in long hours on developing, practicing and coming together in the pursuit of a common goal. It’s healthy for them, too. Today’s high school athletes are more aware of their diet and the rest they need.
But at their core, sports are just fun.
Many outside the circles of student-athletes only see the results of the game in the paper. They don’t, or truly can’t, appreciate the time it took to get to that result. Despite what their most harsh critic thinks, student-athletes live a regimented life. They get up early, they go to school, they get the same amount of homework, they go to practice in season, they train in the off-season, and many have part-time jobs. Look at any high school honor roll or National Honor Society Induction ceremony and the list of athletes often goes unnoticed. They are looked at by some as just jocks. When in reality, they are much more. They are class presidents, club officers, team captains, valedictorians and salutatorians. They are taking college prep classes or attending trade schools and earning experience that will serve them in their chosen professions. They are your neighbors who will shovel your sidewalk in a winter storm, a kid who reads to elementary school kids, or tutors classmates.
Their communities are proud of them, not always because they excel as athletes, but because they are outstanding people. Sure we celebrate the very best, that’s also what makes sports important. Work and commitment are rewarding. Those who are introduced to those values early, succeed in life. Every year, win or lose, high school sports seasons end with a wake in the team locker room. At every graduation across the area, you can count on even the student most eager to leave to get choked up a bit. There is always a balance of joy with a harsh finality to this chapter of life.
For seniors, yes, there are some who continue to climb the ladder. They enjoy the spoils of their athletic gifts by moving to the next level of life in college. But for most, when it is over — the crowds, the lights, the excitement, the friendships — it’s over, and it’s almost impossible to get this experience back.
So this hurts. It should and these kids shouldn’t be afraid to express their feelings.
You aren’t being selfish.
“Life will go on,” as Scranton Prep senior Alison Prushinski said.
And she is right.
FOUR GIRLS TEAMS; SWIMMERS HAVE SEASONS END WITH NO CONCLUSION
Life is full of obstacles and hardships.
As you deal with this setback, know you have been given the tools through sports, the education from your parents, teachers and coaches, to turn a negative into a positive.
These student-athletes all deserve one final standing ovation.
Right now, they are the volunteers.
Someday soon, they are doctors and nurses. They are grocery store clerks, mechanics. They are lawyers, coaches and teachers. They are bankers and leaders. And they will use this experience to better everyone’s life, and to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
They are our future.
So in a search to find the perfect words to comfort these kids, we settled on two.
Joby Fawcett has covered high school sports — including football, girls and boys volleyball, girls and boys tennis, girls and boys swimming, boys basketball, girls and boys track and field, and girls and boys lacrosse — for 22 years. The High School Sports Blog offers deeper insights plus statistical and historical information for fans and features photos, videos and graphics along with Top 5 polls for tennis and volleyball. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100 x5367; @sportsTT