To all the high school athletes, coaches and parents out there: I feel your pain.
When the Utah High School Activities Association confirmed the news we all feared was coming, that the remainder of the spring sports season is canceled, it hit me like a ton of bricks, too. I would give anything to be at a baseball game, a tennis match or a track meet right now, rather than being stuck at home for the past month. I know how much it hurts for the athletes, particularly the seniors, who won’t have the chance to compete alongside their friends again, let alone make memories on those cross-state bus rides.
I feel for the coaches who put in hours trying to get their teams prepared to compete at the highest level. I feel for the parents who were waiting to see their kids compete, and are now seeing their kids struggle with the fact that they can’t.
It is a devastating situation all around, and a situation that doesn’t have an easy solution.
I can tell you what isn’t a solution, though: rushing back to play games just for the sake of salvaging a season, as some people across the state are trying to convince the UHSAA to do.
There are some solid arguments to be made. The girls golf season could probably resume, for instance, given that most golf courses are open and the sport lends itself pretty well to social distancing. But there’s more to it than that.
In perusing online comments on Monday night, someone pointed out the reality of packing 30 members of a soccer team onto the same school bus, or an entire golf or tennis team into a couple Suburbans. A track meet involves hundreds of athletes. Baseball and softball? The pitcher might cough before throwing the ball, then the catcher catches it for strike three and throws the ball around the infield – and suddenly, half a dozen kids might be sick in the ultimate worst-case scenario.
Even in Utah, the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting some areas more than others. You might be OK playing a game against a team from Price or Moab, where there aren’t many cases of the virus. But if you send a team to Blanding, where many of its students are from the Navajo Nation – a spot that has a similar number of coronavirus cases per capita to New York and New Jersey, just to play sports? That’s not a very good idea.
We have all lost something, or even somebody, from our lives as a result of this pandemic. All of us who are experiencing this will be forever affected by it. And, believe me, I want more than anything for things to feel even somewhat normal again.
I want to be out there covering games, talking to kids and putting their names and faces in the newspaper again. I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t love it to its core. However, to quote John Lennon, “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
There will come a day when we’re all able to enjoy a game together again. Unfortunately, now is not that time, and no amount of wishing it could be will make it so.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He, too, is disappointed that May will not be filled with state tournaments and other milestones for Tooele County’s student-athletes. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.