COLUMN: Wrapping up the 2020-21 sports year

As we close in on another sports year, I want to take a moment to look back at some of our teams’ challenges due to COVID-19.

It seems as if not a week went by without several players, and even sometimes entire sports teams, sidelined, mainly because of contact tracing. I have wondered as the past few months went by if we would have seen the same thing this past winter if rapid testing was done on all the athletes instead of just wrestling teams?

I have to believe we would have had a lot more issues during the winter sports season had everyone been tested on a weekly basis.

Once we got through the fall and winter sports seasons, I believed that spring would not be an issue as most of the sports are socially distancing by nature. The long contact sports were soccer and lacrosse, and since none of our schools have lacrosse, I feel good about getting through spring with little disruption.

Boy, was I wrong.

From the get-go, there were issues. Teams were piecing together varsity and JV squads just to have enough players to compete. That made for some pretty interesting challenges for our area coaches as they had to figure out how to be as competitive as possible with the constant shifting of lineups.

Some schools handled it better than others. Most of our teams have had solid, if not, great seasons. The Buchanan baseball and softball teams captured their respective BCS Athletic Conference championships, while Edwardsburg baseball won its seventh Wolverine Conference crown in eight seasons.

One of the issues that reared its ugly head early on was the lack of numbers. Schools were having issues with kids coming out to play sports this spring. One of the hardest hit sports was girls soccer, which seemed to be an issue at all six of the schools I cover. Cassopolis could not even field a girls team this year, while most districts did not have JV teams.

The participation issue was not just limited to soccer. I know many schools did not field JV squads because they only had enough players for the varsity. Those who were able to field JV team were forced to bring up JV to fill the spots of the missing varsity players, which left them it barely enough athletes to compete, or they had to cancel games.

As we head into the postseason, at least things are beginning to look like they are turning the corner. With the state lifting outdoor gathering restrictions on Tuesday and indoor restrictions on July 1, it appears that sports will return to normal for the stretch drive of the state tournament.

If you have not gotten out to a game due to COVID, now is the time. Teams are ready to make that final push for a state championship. Several of our teams look to have a good shot at making a long run in the tournament. Since there are no more restrictions to the number of fans who can attend those games, let us show these athletes that we are still behind them.

On a side note, schools are not selling tickets at the games. You will need to check with the schools to see what site they are using to sell online tickets. I know the state has its own ticket service for the tournament, so get on your phone or your computer now and get those tickets.

It is time to wrap up the 2020-21 high school sports year. Let us do it in style.

 

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

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