Thank You, High School Sports

Thank you, high school sports.

I know all schools in this country still haven’t returned after the health crisis we have endured over the past year. Yes, the virus is still alive, but more and more people are being vaccinated. And more schools are opening.

Our daughter is a junior in high school and has been fortunate to be back in school since August. Last March, at about this time, they left a day early for spring break and never returned for in-person learning for the rest of the school year. They did have online classes, but everything else was canceled. But this year, they returned on a “hybrid” schedule in August, meaning they go for in-person learning every other day and learn online on alternating days. It has worked pretty well. At least they are seeing half their classmates every other day, but they are missing the sense of community…their friends…and real school.

Sports even started back up in the fall, with caveats. They had to wear masks, and there were no fans in the stands. Parents could watch games on livestream, but it wasn’t the same. Eventually, just before the end of the fall season, two adults per player were allowed in the stands…but not students. The same thing happened with winter sports, but now, with spring sports, parents and students are allowed to attend, with masks of course. We have become so accustomed to masks now that I don’t think anyone really cares. We are just happy to be able to watch sports in person again!

Our daughter plays lacrosse on her high school team. She has played varsity for her independent school since she was a freshman. Her freshman year, they won the state championship…the first time the school had ever won the girls lacrosse championship! But last year, the season was cut short. Her freshman year, even though they won the championship, they lost to a large, nearby public school that is not in their conference. It has more students in grades 9-12 than our school has in K-12. They also have a tough team with an outstanding record.

Last night, I was working the livestream on top of the press box at the stadium with my friend, so we had a bird’s eye view of the field. It’s fun to be in the stands, but last night, it was particularly fun to be able to see everything. This particular team we were playing has always been tough, so I know our girls were nervous. And they should have been. It was a close game. We scored first, but the other team quickly went ahead. The other team soon had two injuries to key players, unfortunately, and the parents of those players were angry. I get it. I get mad when my daughter gets hurt too. But the tension in the stands was palpable.

After the half, our varsity girls soccer team finished their practice and came over to watch and cheer on their team. There were a few boys there watching and cheering already, but as our crowd of spectators grew, the momentum seemed to go our way. Our students were cheering and stomping and having a great time cheering on their classmates. It felt the way a game is supposed to feel. It wasn’t quiet. It wasn’t gloomy. It was electric and exciting! As a spectator, I could feel the excitement, so I can only imagine how much energy the girls on the field got from the crowd. For thirty minutes or so, life seemed relatively “normal.”

And when the buzzer sounded at the end of the game, our girls won by two points. Because we had not beaten this particular school in several years, the girls were especially excited. And I have to admit, the students in the stands and the parents were especially excited too. We were excited about the win, but we were excited life felt normal for a little while. We were excited to be cheering together for our team…our daughters or classmates.

I sure hope the momentum of our country people the virus continues just as the momentum for our girls continued last night. Feeling normal is a good thing.

Thank you, high school sports, for making life feel normal again.

The New BC

The new BC.

We all know BC, in historic terms, means before Christ, right? In modern terms, though, it means before COVID.

Now that we are approaching the one year mark on the COVID shutdowns, I look at my daily Facebook memories from 2020 and think, “Wow. How little we knew then.” I look at pictures of myself laughing with friends or my daughter playing sports, and I think, “We had no idea how our lives were about to change.” In fact, on this day one year ago, my post was about a friend telling me that when she was a kid, her school bus driver would stop at railroad tracks and let acid off the bus to run across the tracks…to wave the bus across. That was my big concern of this day in 2020. I had never heard of such a thing, but apparently, it was happening in lots of places. What I didn’t know was that life as I knew it was about to stop, and I wouldn’t be worried about how people waved buses across railroad tracks back in the day.

This morning, my daughter’s school lacrosse team had a game, and it was the first time students have been allowed to attend sporting events as spectators since this time last year. March 12 was the last day our kids went to school last year, and that anniversary is rapidly approaching. There were no spring sports after that date. Our little independent school opened in August, with a hybrid plan of alternating days for students, so at least they are in school half the time, and we had fall sports, but we had them without spectators. Same with winter sports…our school found a way for parents to attend (only two adults per player), but students were still not allowed to attend as spectators…till today.

Last night, my daughter and her friends were reminding friends that they should come watch the game and cheer them on this morning. And not surprisingly, lots of them showed up…even for a Saturday morning game! Girls sports, for whatever reason, don’t usually have a whole lot of spectators besides parents, but today? The turnout was fantastic! Maybe since they haven’t been able to gather in stadiums and sports arenas for so long, these students will support all their teams. I think they will be thrilled to have an excuse to commune…even while social distancing. At least, after a whole year of shutdowns and disappointments, these kids are getting an opportunity to have a little bit of normalcy.

Heck, our school has even announced the juniors and seniors will have a prom! That was quite a shocker, but it truly gave the students something to look forward to!

Hopefully, things will continue to move in a positive direction. Last year, we canceled our spring break trip at the last minute, but this year, we are going. In fact, we are going on the trip we paid for last year, so this year it seems like a free trip!

The past year has been tough on all of us…some more so than others. It was tough mentally for me and lots of my friends. It was tough financially for lots of people. Physically…lots of people got COVID and recovered, but lots of people died or lost loved ones. Our kids lost the experiences they are supposed to have as kids and teenagers. College students stayed home and learned online or sat in dorms and learned. They lost a year of “college experience.” People lost jobs and livelihoods…some of them lost everything they had. It was a tough year. We were told that we could “flatten the curve” of COVID by staying home for two weeks back in March 2020. Then that two weeks stretched to four weeks…six weeks…six months…and here we are at a year. I was about to lose my mind every time a vacation canceled last summer, but I knew missing vacations was minor compared to what some folks were experiencing. It didn’t make it any easier for me, and when I’d had enough (September), I got on a plane anyway. I needed it.

One thing I know is that starting on March 12, my Facebook memories are going to get more interesting. They will move from BC (before COVID) to photos and posts from the first year of the COVID era. While I have hated the shutdowns, and I have hated watching people get sick and some die, I think the posts that start popping up in my memories will be interesting. They will tell a story of the first year of COVID. I will see posts from last spring, when we were stuck home, and I was spending as much time as possible outdoors, because I couldn’t look at the four walls of my house anymore. They will also tell the story of a year unlike any other. Before it happened, staying home all the time sounded like Hell to me. And for the first few weeks and even months, it was especially tough. Then I found ways to make it more tolerable…gardening, taking road trips, mailing postcards, mailing letters, sitting by the pool, talking on the phone…anything to make it better.

My daddy used to tell me that once you start staying home all the time it becomes too easy to stay home all the time. If you stop driving on the interstate highway, you forget how to drive on the interstate highway. Stop going to the grocery store? You forget how. You have to take on the “use it or lose it” mentality, and thankfully, I remembered that throughout the last year. I would get into my car and just drive sometimes. But yes, I did notice as stores started opening that I was a little awkward when shopping. How does one forget how to shop? I even went into a new sandwich shop one time early in the shutdowns, and wearing a mask made it seem almost unnavigable to me. I couldn’t learn a new system while wearing a mask! So I left and went to my old trusted sandwich shop, where the ordering system was familiar.

Since then, I’ve traveled more and moved around more…sometimes by car and sometimes by plane…all while wearing a mask. I’m wondering if life will ever be what it was BC, or will we always wear masks? Will we always be afraid to hug or shake hands? That’s the part I really hate. I like hugging. I like shaking hands.

But right now, I’m just thankful. I’m thankful to have survived the first year of the COVID era relatively intact. I’m grateful to have great friends and family I love. I hope we move into the post-COVID era sooner rather than later.

As we start to move beyond the first year of COVID, I hope we will all remember how fortunate we are to have “normal” again. I hope we will all be grateful for “normal.” I hope those who have experienced hardship or loss can find a way to move forward. I hope we find ways to be joyful. I hope…I just hope we have hope.