The high school sports season will grind to a halt for the next several days in order for athletes, coaches and everyone else involved to spend valuable time with their families for the Christmas season.
It will also provide an opportunity for all those bumps and bruises to heal, and for coaches (and angry fans!) to regain their voices after the grind of the past month.
Local basketball teams will have played roughly 10 games each since the week before Thanksgiving. Wrestlers will be approaching the 30-match mark. Swimmers started their season before basketball players and wrestlers, and while it’s not a contact sport, it is every bit as strenuous and takes the same dedication to be truly great at it.
From my point of view as an observer, there are times when that hectic schedule feels like just too much.
Maybe I’m just imagining things, but it seems like the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas has high school athletes busier than ever. Back when I was in high school in Moab, it didn’t seem like we played nearly as many games before Christmas as they do now.
That could have been because our nearest potential opponent was nearly 60 miles away, but we made road trips to Colorado to play in tournaments and still didn’t seem to play as many games.
I look at the modern prep athlete, particularly in rural Utah, and wonder how they manage to find the balance between school, sports and social life. All three are key elements of a student-athlete’s high school experience. But it’s difficult when you’re playing games up to four nights a week, sometimes spending hours at a time on a school bus and trying to figure out how to get your math homework done in the dark, getting home at 1 a.m. and having to go to school bright and early the next morning. I speak from experience.
As an aside, the volleyball player who claimed the Utah High School Activities Association’s new realignment plan would cause her to reevaluate whether she can continue playing because of added travel could use a bit of perspective.
You think traveling from Provo to Salt Lake City for a game is bad? We were in a region with North Summit, South Summit, Rowland Hall, Juan Diego and Juab. Three of our co-valedictorians were multi-sport athletes. Two went on to become attorneys. One is in his residency at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. It can be done.
Outside of the classroom element, the injury bug is starting to bite already. There are sprained ankles on the basketball floor and even more gruesome injuries on the wrestling mat (I’ve heard the words “dislocated kneecap” a couple times already in the past month). A few days off from practices and games can only help some of those injuries heal.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and rejuvenating holiday season to all. May this time with loved ones be truly special. I’ll look forward to seeing you again come January.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He never did quite figure out how to balance school work with basketball road trips, leading to poor math skills and landing him in a career as a writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.