I’ve been doing this job for almost six years now. Never had I covered a season like this one.
When this global pandemic started back in March, there was a movement called #BeTheLightMN. Essentially, schools around the state left their lights on at football, baseball, and softball fields to honor the Class of 2020 who didn’t get a spring sports season.
As the 2020 fall sports season came to an end this past week, the lights were on once again for a final time.
Knowing last Friday would be the final day of games across the state for the foreseeable future, I didn’t know what to feel. It all happened so fast. I had the brackets filled out for football playoffs. I was getting excited about what the volleyball postseason would like, as well. None of that matters though anymore.
The fall sports season is over and I wasn’t ready for it to be. Luckily, I was able to double-dip on coverage for the final night of competitions. I started my night watching the Dassel-Cokato football pick up a win over a really good Glencoe-Silver Lake team. Following that one, I stopped at Watertown-Mayer to catch the final half of their football game against Fairmont.
Once the W-M football game was over, that’s all there was. The game was over. I went over to the W-M huddle and waited to talk with head coach Andrew Phillips. After interviewing Phillips for a bit and chatting for a bit about other things, it was time to leave. I wasn’t ready though.
As I got back to my truck, I didn’t leave. I sat there looking at an empty stadium with the lights still on. I decided I wasn’t going to leave until the lights went off. About a half-hour later, the lights that shone above the field slowly disappeared, officially putting an end to the 2020 fall sports season.
It was a weird feeling knowing this was it. There are no more sports for the foreseeable future.
As I sat in my truck looking at the lights, I thought about all the awesome moments and memories I’ve witnessed and covered throughout this crazy and unique season.
As I was looking back, I thought about the athletes. They were having their seasons taken away from them once again. It just didn’t seem fair.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a high school athlete right now. Some were about to play for a section title which was the highest point they could get to this season. Some already had their seasons to come to an end because of a loss. Some were just playing another game to get once more chance to play the game they love.
If there’s anything I hope these athletes take away from this season it’s this. I hope you all don’t think of this season as the one that got taken away from you. I hope you think of this season as the one where you did everything you possibly could to play the game you love.
There was no state tournament. Some teams didn’t get to play a full schedule. Some teams didn’t get to play for that section title like they thought they would. Those are all reasons to be upset. Instead of focusing on those things, I hope athletes are focusing on things like this.
I hope the W-M football team remembers that feeling they had when they broke their 29-game losing streak this year. I hope Mayer Lutheran’s Morgan Chmielewski and Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted’s Jenna Pelnis remember how it felt when they reached the 1,000 career digs milestone. I hope the W-M and Mayer Lutheran volleyball teams remember their incredible seasons as two of the top teams in the state. I hope Collin Boese remembers his 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown against rival Maple Lake. I hope Dylan Mandt remembers his touchdown for the Royals as time expired. I hope all athletes and coaches realize how lucky they are to get to play this season.
There’s been a lot of talk about what this season has looked like. I think Chad Courrier of the Mankato Free Press said it best in a column of his own. This season was never about winning section or state titles. It was all about getting the chance to play the sport these kids love with their friends one last time.
So to all those athletes out there who are hurting right as the season was cut short, I hope you look at things like this. Don’t think of this as the season that was taken away early. Think of this season as the one where you got the chance to play and make more lifelong memories with your friends playing the game you love. It wasn’t ideal, but it was something.
Take it from a former high school athlete. It’s been nine years since I’ve last played a high school sport and I still get chills and excitement walking into a gym or onto a field to cover a game. High school sports are special. You’ll remember those moments forever.
In a season where it seemed like nothing was normal, there were still plenty of memories and moments to remember. Keep those moments and memories in your heart and be proud of what you all did this season.
I want to thank every athlete, coach, and athletic director across the state for their hard work and dedication this season. Nothing was easy, and nothing was possible without you.
Thank you for everything you did to allow this guy to cover the athletes and sports he loves to do. Your hard work and sacrifices did not go unnoticed.
Follow Sports Editor Kip Kovar on Twitter.