COLUMN: Waiting and wondering what is next

There was good news on Wednesday in the world of high school sports.

Three sports — boys swimming and diving, bowling and gymnastics — can restart their practices on Saturday and begin competition before the end of the month.

However, there was frustrating news as well. Boys and girls basketball, along with wrestling, can begin practicing without contact, but their seasons cannot begin until Feb. 1.

Another month has been lopped off the winter sports season, which usually is in full swing in December. What does that mean for those sports? How are we going to get 20 games in for the regular season? What does this mean for the wrestling season?

Supposedly, we will find out more answers by the end of the week when the Michigan High School Athletic Association says it will release a new postseason schedule. No matter what they release and what the current plan is, there is one thing that none of us will be able to control — the weather.

Picking up a season in February and expecting to get through the month without snow and ice affecting sporting events is pure fantasy. Will this mean that athletic directors will feel the pressure to have games in order to get in as many as possible? How will student athletes’ bodies hold up under the strain of constant competition for two or more months?

All these questions cannot be answered until we start having games. We had well below our average of snow in December. We are behind in the amount of snow we annually get in January, at least so far. I expect things to pick up at some point. Hopefully, it will not be so bad that we start losing games right off the bat.

Then there are the concerns of families. If the winter sports season runs into spring break as expected, what are they going to do? Trips have been planned. In some cases, I bet tickets from airlines have been purchased as families try to make up for last year’s lost vacations.

I have already heard about teams that have lost players. Since sports were put back in November, many got jobs. Some have decided not to play out of concerns that they could infect family members by bringing COVID home.

How level is the playing field going to be? Teams loaded with returning players will have a greater advantage over those whose rosters are filled with underclassmen. As most teams were unable to have any type of summer program, those schools will be behind the eight-ball big time.

I understand everyone wants to get the student-athletes back in the classroom and back on the court, but at what cost? Proponents of getting everything back on track claim that it is for the well-being of the student-athlete. How positive will the experience be if we keep yanking them back and forth between getting ready to play and then setting for months waits to restart?

I wonder how much of a positive experience it will be if schools that do not have large numbers and are forced to play underclassmen at the varsity level just to have a team. There is an emotional toll that needs to be considered as well.

I am particularly concerned with the winter sports athletes who play basketball, as well as swimming and diving. Can they go through another year of having their season snatched away from them at the last minute like was done in March? How will that be a positive experience for them?

So, once again, we sit and wait. We wait to see how the pandemic goes and if people are taking it seriously enough now that we can get through the next couple of months. If you are one of those people who do not think you should have to wear a mask, think about your children or your friends’ children who want a chance to complete their sports seasons.

Please do it for them.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.

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