As the traditional school calendar came to an unceremonious end a couple weeks ago, the finality of lost senior athletic seasons set in for thousands of senior athletes and their parents. It's over, forever.
Those words are a tough reality to face in many areas of life, when applied. In this case, parents reflect back on all the years when your child’s pants were only white the day the coach handed them out, that new glove that needed to be broken in, the first goals made regardless if it was in the correct goal, the squeak of shoes on a gym floor, shin guards that protected the entire short little legs of your child, the dugout chants, the tears of a strike out and the elation of a first homerun, the hat tricks and grass stains, the concession stand food and camping chairs, the hours and hours and hours of practices and a long list of relationships formed.
Parents of young athletes will chat after a big victory, “I can't wait until these kids play together in high school!” Years of this routine all building up to that magic senior year. Then 2020 happened, and it was over before it started.
Believe it or not, with all that is going on in the world, this is not a commentary about how tragic losing a senior year of sports was for many. This is a commentary on how life is unpredictable, sometimes unfair, and how you react is most important.
We tout sports because they teach life lessons, but we usually water that down to mantras such as, “work hard and do your best to achieve your goals.” The reality of both sports and life, sometimes you can work your hardest, do your best, and still fall short of your goals.
In 2020, the journey ended without warning and goals evaporated into a void that continues to linger for both parents and athletes. This didn't happen because the Class of 2020 didn't work hard or do their best. It happened because the path to the destination is never guaranteed in life.
What we should be teaching through sports is not the destination, but the journey and how you grow as a person along the way. That's how real life works.
It could be argued that widespread depression in this country is due to a culture that teaches chasing an end goal in the future rather than living in the moment. As a high school basketball coach, I've learned the hardest thing to communicate to young people is to savor their fading youth and make the most of what they have today because tomorrow is never guaranteed for any of us.
That's the tough but invaluable lesson 2020 seniors have experienced, and it is our job as mentors to make sure they recognize it. Life is fading. One's time on earth ticks by at a glacial pace, hardly noticeable in the moment. Yet covering miles when distracted. That's the only way to fill this void, make sure this opportunity to grow doesn't go to waste.
Make sure you at least have that discussion with your senior athlete, or yourself. A reminder that most of us take every day for granted is not a bad thing if it sparks change, but only if it sparks change. Too often, we dismiss real action with a hashtag or sharing of a quote on social media. We need to help our kids and ourselves learn how to take daily action in our lives in an attempt to better our situation.
Greet each day by giving thanks, set out to get one thing done, put a smile on your face and that of another, and by all means, learn something new. By losing a senior season to a pandemic, your athlete can learn to live, learn, and achieve everyday rather than chase some big goal in the future. Not only will that big goal be more obtainable, but I'd wager their life will be happier along the way.
Sports don't teach life; sports reside within the arena of life where we have the choice to ignore or learn. Sports is an experience, it’s a journey, but it is not a destination even in a senior season.