It’s certainly cliché, but 2020 hasn’t exactly been the most normal year in human history. The pandemic has put a strain on small businesses, families, communities, students and educators and has touched everyone in some shape or form.
In the big scheme of things, sports are something that can be easily pushed aside as insignificant. There are bigger things in life that are going on; more pressing needs.
Life doesn’t hinge on a Vikings win, the Wolves probably are still going to be below .500 and the Twins probably didn’t sign that pitcher that everyone pretended they were actually going to sign.
However, sports are an important reprieve from our everyday lives. Life is complicated enough. It is refreshing sometimes to sit down on the couch and enjoy (or hate watch) a Vikings game.
Even more important than professional sports are youth and high school sports. Their worlds have been turned upside down. Sports seasons were cancelled, graduations were virtual, school dances were eliminated; many of the aspects that make being a kid fun were ripped away from them.
Mental health is something that is very important and the past year has not exactly been a clinic on how to make sure our kids are okay mentally. The difficult part is that a lot of it is inevitable. Nothing about life in a pandemic is going to be regular; hard decisions need to be made in order to keep everyone as safe as we can.
However, thankfully starting in the fall, sports came back. Thousands of kids across the state were able to continue playing the sport that they love at least in some capacity. It might not have been perfect, but it has been important to return to some form of normalcy.
This year, I was able to coach the 8th grade football team at Watertown-Mayer. I had never coached football before and didn’t really know what to expect. After installing an entire offense in just a few days, our team hit the ground running.
Those kids are going to remember the battle they had with New London-Spicer, where down 8-0, a 50 yard bomb got us into the red zone as time was ticking away. A few plays later, we had about a minute left with four chances to score from the 5 yard line. A goal line fade to our 6’6 tight end didn’t go exactly as planned and we had to pick ourselves up after a 105 yard interception return.
The outcome didn’t go exactly as we had wanted, but I guarantee you those kids made a memory. I know losing my first game coaching in that fashion is certainly a memory I won’t forget.
A few weeks later, we had our last game against Mound Westonka. After losing badly in 7th grade, our team was laser focused and wanted to finish the season with a win. The team played inspired, stifling them defensively and moving the ball up and down the field to a 28-6 victory. Those kids are going to remember that game.
At the varsity level, the WM football team had been on a 29 game losing streak. Losing some close games, the Royals just needed to make that final play to get over the hump to get a win.
After an incredible performance, the Royals upset the Glencoe-Silver Lake Panthers 28-10 in a game that I can absolutely guarantee you, those players and coaches remember for their lifetime.
What if these memories hadn’t happened? What if these kids weren’t given the chance to do the things that they love and compete with their friends?
I’m happy that the MSHSL and government worked to let these kids play. Their decision allowed these kids to have some kind of normalcy in a world right now where that is very much needed. It allowed these kids to make memories and be kids in an environment that is as safe as it can be.
Sadly, fall sports are coming to a halt after Friday and winter sports are being delayed indefinitely. I understand that these are difficult times and there are so many factors to consider when trying to figure this all out. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t sadden me.
As a high school basketball coach, we will now have to wait at least four weeks to get our season underway. I feel for all of our players who just want to play the sport they love and the parents who just want to see their kids have fun and be kids.
To be frank, it sucks.
But sports will return at some point. Our athletes will be back in the gym, parents will be watching their kids play and coaches will get back to doing what they love; coaching.
This is a difficult time for everyone but stay the course. Stay positive. Sports will be back and I know I’ll be appreciative when they do.
I’ll appreciate the late nights of watching film. I’ll appreciate the 50 minute drive from practice to home. I’ll appreciate when our kids run the play wrong. I’ll appreciate the bus ride from Watertown to New London-Spicer… Okay I still won’t appreciate that, but you get the point.
I’m thankful for sports and I simply can’t wait for them to return.