It Is Not Just a Sport

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GUEST COMMENTARY

I won’t sugarcoat it. I cried. I got in my car. I drove and I cried.

(Photo courtesy the author)

I cried for my team. I cried for other teams. I cried for months and months of frustration. I didn’t want sports in Pennsylvania to be shut down, again. It has nothing to do with wins and losses or trying to get to another district championship. I didn’t want sports to shut down because our kids have endured enough! Their physical and mental health has taken a hit and it just took another hit on Thursday afternoon.

A few points to note: 

  • What I write here will be about sports, but this goes for any extra-curricular activity.  It will be about sports, since that is where my passion lies. 
  • I am not going to argue, fight or write about all the things controversial around COVID-19. I read and hear enough about it EVERY DAMN DAY. I get it. I really do. It is here and it exists. This is instead going to be about how this ‘silly sport’ of basketball is way more than a game.

Nine months we have endured this pain as a nation, a state, a community and a basketball family. I know we are not the only ones and we are not alone in this. We have all had our lives altered in some way in the past nine months. We are now on a three week pause for winter sports, which simply means no practice or games until January 4th at the earliest. I know some are thinking, ‘What is the big deal? So you have to wait 3 weeks to start your season.’  To these kids it is a big deal.  A big deal that some have been waiting for their whole lives. You never get a season back in high school. Time doesn’t stop like it can in the NCAA. You can redshirt or during this COVID era you can just be given a full year of eligibility. High school kids don’t get that luxury.

Hopefully this is just a three week pause, but how can we know for certain in these times? Remember many of these athletes felt so much pain already when the end of their winter sports season and spring sports season were ripped away. With no warning at all. Just ripped away. No closure at a practice, no closure at a game. Just ripped away. For many, sports is their release; their saving grace. It was mine. Basketball was my therapy, in high school and in college. It is something that we turn to in an effort to build self-confidence, get away from a bad home environment, socialize with friends and/or help with our mental well-being. The list could go on and on about the benefits. Some athletes during this three week pause will keep working and finding ways to improve, finding ways to stay busy in a manner that is positive. Unfortunately, some will get lost in negative activities. In the past nine months, anxiety in kids is on the rise, drug and alcohol use is on the rise, suicide among children and teenagers is on the rise.  Our children are lost and anxious. They need structure and guidance. Sports provides this.

We will hope and pray that it is only a three week pause. Not for the sake of playing for wins and losses, but playing for the sake of our athletes. Playing so they can experience the rush and joy that comes with playing their sport. You can even take away the spectators and make them wear a mask, they don’t care. They just want to play.

Parents – Please check in on your athletes often. Watch college games on TV (especially women’s games!!). Do some drills with them. Let them dribble in the house! Give them a positive outlet. Be their light and positivity.

Athletes – It is okay to be sad and it is okay to cry.  Let it out. However, don’t dwell long. Stay ready and get to work.

To my players – You know how much I love you. I am always here for you no matter what. You know what is expected of you and I know you will stay ready! Work hard and stay in shape, mentally and physically. Lean on each other and show one another the way.

To everyone else – Wear a mask. Follow the mandates. We are begging you. We want our season and it is up to all of us! Please do your part so our numbers go down! We want to play this winter and our kids, our athletes NEED it!

Lisa LaVan

Head Girls Basketball Coach

Warren Area High School

Editor’s note: Correspondence can be sent to [email protected]