One day you will be asked where you were when the Sports World Stopped Turning. The news pounding out like a drum, notification after notification on my phone, the ESPN app blowing up. The NBA season was put on hold; at the height of College basketball, one after another conference tournament stopped then canceled. Then there it was, the NCAA, the largest and most profitable sporting event, March Madness, canceled. Then the dominos started to fall-- collegiate spring sports were canceled. Moment by moment, it all came to a grinding halt. But as an Athletic Director and Head Coach of a spring sport, I will most remember when I read an email from GHSA, based on the directive from Gov. Kemp, that spring sports will be postponed as well.
I remember that I received this information at the end of our varsity girls soccer practice and the beginning of the boys practice. We were preparing to travel to Aquinas to play a big area match. Important for both teams, the girls had dropped a close one at SCD 2-1 and the boys picked up a big 2-1 win over SCD. The decision had been made that we would not travel due to Covid-19.
Thankfully, I am surrounded by great coaches. Mike Carswell and I were discussing how we wanted to relay the information. He always reminds me that it is better to rip the band-aid off. So we did just that. These are young adults, and we preach constantly about the privilege it is that we GET to play a sport. It is a voluntary activity, but it is what we love about it: the time together, the practices, games, bus rides, the sprints, the extra running, the a.m. workouts, all things we GET to do. I had to tell them that I did not know what the future held, that all we could do was control what we could control. We talk about this as the essence of life and use sports as the relay system: You control your attitude, your work ethic, and actions. How will you respond to adversity? We told them that there was something greater going on in the world. I had to look at our seniors and tell them, “I don’t know when we will be back, but be assured that you are loved and valued whether you ever play again.” We would soon realize how close the virus would be arriving at our doorstep. I was so proud of our teams and the moments after we shared the news to them, how they openly talked about their feelings and how they latched on to the seniors. More impressive was the response. We had already prepared ice baths for our teams to prepare for Friday's game that was not now happening, but the girls went in like these might be the last moments, and the boys had one of the best practices of the season. There was a freedom about their play, a sense of urgency, a heightened level of intensity. More importantly, you could see the genuine love they had for each other, how they embraced this moment. At the end when we prayed, there was a peace, a peace that I could not describe except that the student-athletes understood what that moment was all about. God’s love for us surpasses all understanding.
Now we wait and see what the future holds. Sports teams and organizations helped lessen the spread with all the cancellations. When we do return, it will be sports as always, participation in sports playing the role of healer in bringing the communities back together. And when it does, I hope every player, parent, coach, and fan has a renewed perspective on what sports is really about, what role it really plays. Then we will see the good in all that it brings and what we GET to do!