A shout out for high school athletes

 

By Mark Nagi

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has had a huge effect on the daily lives of all Americans.  The way we shop, the way we travel, the way we work… nothing is normal these days.

It got me thinking about what this ordeal has meant to high school athletes.  They spend years practicing and training while playing the sports they love. For most of them, high school is their athletic pinnacle. Many of these kids dream of playing for a state championship. In the spring, that means tennis, golf, baseball, softball and soccer at the Spring Fling in Murfreesboro, which has become one of our state’s best events.  And I’m not just talking about sports.  The city welcomes families for a few days each May.  It feels like every hundred yards there is a game being played.

Each spring I am lucky enough to do play by play for the boys’ soccer championships.  I look forward to it every year.  But in mid-April, Governor Bill Lee announced that due to COVID-19 concerns, school would be canceled for the remainder of the semester. This made spring sports a casualty. It also meant that the remaining basketball championship games would not be played.

In a statement released by the TSSAA, the organization expressed its sadness at those developments. “To our senior participants – we thank you for everything you have done for your schools and communities and wish you the very best in your bright futures. This is difficult, but the lessons you’ve learned and friendships you’ve made through high school activities will last your lifetime. We look forward to the resumption of high school athletics during the 2020-21 school year and will continue work on those events at this time. The TSSAA thanks everyone involved for their patience and understanding throughout this process.”

That decision was not taken lightly. And the statewide mandate kind of took the call out of the hands of the TSSAA.  But they were doing all they could to play those games. It just wasn’t meant to be.

When I was in high school, I played soccer and ran track. I was decent at soccer.  Track? Not so much. But it would have devastated me to not have the opportunity to play those sports.  High school is such a short period of our lives. It’s a shame that these kids won’t have the chance to play this year.

But the message for today’s high school athletes should be that even though the spring season is lost, that doesn’t mean that the lessons they have learned along the way are gone. Through sports, they work with others to achieve a goal.  That’s the type of thing that will help them throughout their lives when their days of lacing up cleats are done.

For the seniors, we know that this isn’t the way that you wanted things to end. But having no sports in spring 2019 doesn’t mean that your memories are deleted. It doesn’t mean that the friendships you’ve made along the way are gone.

Life is a journey, and while it might feel like you are missing out, you’ll learn as you get older that the journey is the most important thing. It might not feel like it, but we’ve got your back.

For now, we all just need to do all we can to stay safe, stay healthy, follow guidelines, and hope that those measures will bring the sports we love back to us sooner than later.

 

Mark Nagi is the author of “Decade of Dysfunction,” which takes an up-close look at Tennessee’s crazy coaching search in 2017. The book is available on Amazon.

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