This past week marked the culmination of spring sports in Section IX in upstate New York. The softball and baseball sectional tournaments were held, even though the boys’ and girls’ teams in my school district did not qualify for the tournament this year. Members of golf teams in the section attended championship matches on well-manicured courses. Boys and girls outdoor track and field competed on the track and in the field events at their sectional meets across the region. (Even though it was not the finish they wanted, our boys’ and girls’ teams finished in a respectable second place in our class.) Tennis and lacrosse championships took place all over, just not in my school district. The drama and anticipation was felt in every championship, as it normally does every spring. Some defending champs fell, while others held onto their titles. Graduating senior athletes felt the bittersweet delight of being honored on their home fields, never to compete as an athlete there again.
As a high school coach, I have conflicting feelings during this time of year. The warm weather is finally here, and we all feel happier and more carefree with being outside. And nothing beats hearing the blast of a starting pistol at a track meet, or the tinging sound a baseball makes when it’s hit with a bat, or the thwack of a golf ball being hit off a tee. Ah, fresh air and smiles all around. However, it is also time to say goodbye. Goodbye to graduates and see-ya-later for the summer to other athletes. Some even have to say farewell to beloved coaches and teachers, those who make a difference in a child’s life and go far beyond their job description.
COVID-19 robbed us of normal sport seasons and the school system’s illogical response to unmasking and spectators robbed athletes and their families of seeing the contests. It was only last week that our school district allowed outdoor athletes to remove their masks, even though you could be mask-less anywhere else outdoors. Masks are still required inside schools, but not in grocery stores or restaurants or anywhere else that I can think of. Spectators were limited if they were allowed at all at outdoor contests, but the high school prom still took place at an indoor venue with very few restrictions. The spring season was full of things that did not make sense, but we were grateful just to be competing.
So, it’s time to finish up this wretched school year. Let’s hope for normality to return when the next school year begins in August and September. Then, the sentimental feeling of goodbye will morph into the promise of what a new year and a new season will bring.