Athletics and activities are a big part of many students’ high school experiences. With the threat of those being taken away this fall due to the pandemic, and in some cases already disappearing from metro school districts, it has forced me to reflect on how important these aspects of school really are to our students and how, although their health is and should be the number one priority, without these outlets the community will have another loss to overcome.
I coach a high school fall sport and sponsor a club team in the Kansas City metro area, and this season has already been a whirlwind. Taking temperatures before every practice, wearing masks outside while trying to social distance, and not giving high-fives or having team huddles has been a different way of coaching for me. The athletes are anxious every day about whether tomorrow they will get to play the sport they love again or not.
Not knowing whether we will get to have our hilariously fun bus rides, team dinners, and bonding experiences we normally get to have in season also has put a damper on the situation. Will our seniors get a senior night? Will we get another chance at a state title? Or will all of it get cancelled.
High school sports and activities provide so much more than just “something for kids to do.” It holds them accountable. If they do not make the grades they need, arrive to events on time, or communicate with staff appropriately, their participation in the activity can be taken away. For some students, one of the biggest extrinsic motivations for their grades in school is wanting to participate in their activities outside of school. When the activities go away, some students’ motivation may as well. An absence of athletics and activities can cause a range of consequences, including issues with mental health.
As their coach, I’ve found it hard to watch what these student athletes have had to go through and what they may miss. I know that I will get another season, another team. I love my job and the relationships I get to build; I will get many more of the great moments coaching offers in the future. But the girls only get one high school playing career. Watching some of them lose this opportunity and losing the opportunity to coach them and build relationships with them myself is saddening. I coach to teach, but it is an honor to watch my players grow from freshman to seniors. I get to enjoy their success as much they do. I hate that I am losing time with them and that these once in a lifetime chances many not happen for them this season, and for seniors, ever again.
To the parents of high school aged students, I see you. Our time with our kids is so short, and any moment we get to watch them play a sport or participate in an activity they love is a moment we should never take for granted. They have worked so hard to have these moments and watching them get taken away can be crushing. You are their support and the ones that they lean on, so just remember that your response to these situations are being watched and evaluated by them. You can add sympathy and remorse, but remind them that this is a small part of the big picture. Remind them that you are their biggest fan, and there will be many other amazing opportunities that will come for them and this is just one of the many times in their life they will face adversity. Teach them how to overcome the adversity.
If sports and activities get cancelled at my high school, my heart will be extremely upset for my “kids,” especially my seniors. They were my first group of athletes at my school, and I was eager to watch them in their last year in our program, but whatever happens, I know this is not the end of my relationship with them. They will go to their next stage in life, and I will always be here to provide knowledge, friendship, and support for them. I cannot wait to see what the rest of their life has in store.
Until then, I will not take any day we get to practice for granted, and one day when life does get back to normal, I will never take the long practices, the bus rides, the wins and losses, and the fans in the stands for granted again either.