Published On: Wed, Jun 16th, 2021

ON THE SIDELINES: Student-athletes should be commended for handling of pandemic season

 

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

One Feather Staff

 

As this sports season, arguably one of the oddest in state history, winds down, we should turn to the remarkable ability of most of the student-athletes to just hunker down and do what they needed to do for the love of their sport.

Vivian Ross, Lady Braves varsity basketball player, shoots during a game at Swain County this past season while wearing the COVID-19 protocol-mandated mask. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photo)

During a pre-season interview with the Cherokee Braves varsity baseball team, Daniel Thompson, senior outfielder, told me, “It’s crazy.  Here we are in the middle of a pandemic, and we’re playing baseball.  So, that’s awesome to me really.  It’s been great so far.  Everybody’s been following the rules.  We’ve been wearing our masks.  It’s hard, but you have to do what you have to do.  I love the sport so I don’t mind it at all.”

You have to do what you have to do.

I love the sport so I don’t mind it at all.

Those two statements sum up the mentality of most of the student-athletes I came across, both at Cherokee and other area schools, in multiple sports throughout this past season.

Frankly, I am extremely impressed and have been since it all started.  Seeing the Braves and Lady Braves run up and down the basketball court for full games while wearing a mask was just impressive.  It got rugged for me sometimes, and I was only walking around taking photographs.

In December 2020, I wrote a column praising the efforts of Cherokee Central Schools in making sure that all COVID-related precautions were adhered to by the book.  It was impressive to see the coaches and volunteers making sure that volleyballs were sanitized between plays or that players social distanced on benches.  And, like I’ve said but bears repeating over and over, it was incredibly impressive to see the athletes compete while wearing masks.

But, they competed.  They played.  And, I’m glad they did…it’s important.

During a press conference on Facebook live in August that I sat in on, Dr. Josh Bloom, NCHSAA (North Carolina High School Athletic Association) Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, spoke on the importance of having sports seasons.  “For many young people, the void left without sports is filled with anxiety, depression, and despair.  While the consequences of not participating may be more difficult to quantify than the risk of COVID-19 infection, we recognize these consequences of not participating are real and they are grave.”

Basketball legend Michael Jordan once said, “Just play.  Have fun.  Enjoy the game.”

And, that’s exactly what these athletes did this past season – just like all seasons beforehand.  They played.  They had fun.  And, they enjoyed the game – even if it meant sitting apart from their teammates and having to wear a cloth mask.

Things should be back to normal for the start of fall sports in late August.  It will be nice to not have the COVID-19 restrictions anymore, but let’s also remember the grit determination of these amazing student-athletes who played their game despite the hurdles they faced this past season.

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