"There is more to life than increasing its speed." - Mahatma Gandhi

I got a call from one of our players yesterday about our guys getting together to work out at a nearby gym. Being that our school has yet to officially start workouts I thought the initiative of our guys was awesome, so our assistant coach and I went to check it out. Entering the gym I thought I was in a movie scene. The lights were dim, the court had no lines, there was one basket, and the chairs remaining in the gym looked like they came straight from grandma's front porch. Needless to say, it was not what I expected.

Yet, for our players and coaching staff it was perfect. Seeing them work in an old, run down gym was a breath of fresh air from the monotony of quarantine, and brought me back to the foundation of our program, when we started in t-shirts, black shorts, and black sneakers. Just being around our players felt like home again, as they

pushed through their natural fatigue following months of pickup and hustling to find available facilities. When you’re from the 25(2), this insatiable hunger to find the next game, or an available goal, is at your core. The game of basketball remains an outlet and key motivator for our team as we wait to begin our quest to repeat as state champions.

Yet, even with the joy of being back together, it is impossible not to feel somewhat lost or disheartened by the challenges brought forth by COVID-19. Our normal gym packed of starving seniors and eager underclassmen was limited to just eight hard-working participants. Our traditional facility, located on campus, was now a run down warehouse reminiscent of the Looney Tunes court in the movie “Space Jam” (pre spit shine, of course). Our typical senior leadership was now met with a group full of new voices needing to take steps immediately rather than approach their growth on a day by day basis. COVID-19 has presented teams across the state with all sorts of challenges, ranging from navigating the loss of senior leadership, to players transferring with the fear of what the future may hold, to coping with the pressures and gaps students and their families face with online learning. Simply put, COVID has been a piece of 💩, and has thoroughly altered our “traditional” worldview.

COVID-19’s impact on public health is real. Somehow wearing a mask has become a divisive political issue aligned to your religious beliefs. But what isn’t being discussed nearly enough is how the lack of sports has directly affected the well-being of student-athletes across our great state. Players who may or may not have been receiving interest to play at the next level have seen those dreams dashed, forcing them to start from scratch. Training has become inconsistent with some schools going all in and others (like ours) yet to even start. And, most importantly, players who may never play the game of basketball ever again, knowing that this season was their final time to suit up with their friends and ball out, are now facing limited seasons and state playoff prospects, and potentially no games in front of hometown fans. The most important aspect of sports, the camaraderie, has been stolen by COVID, and getting back to that sense of normalcy will be imperative for the well-being of our young men and women.

For all these challenges I say “Fock COVID.”

Fock COVID because it has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Fock COVID because it has forced us to live each day glued to an electronic devise in hopes that we can find some level of connection with those closest to us, knowing full well that we can’t. Fock COVID for taking opportunities away from my son and daughter and forcing them to live lives away from friends and family. And, finally, fock COVID for changing the lives of so many young student-athletes across the #HoopState and nation. No one asked for this to happen, it was completely mismanaged, and as a result we are all dealing with seemingly insurmountable consequences.

To those of you who are feeling at a loss, I feel for you, I connect with you, and I see you. Times haven’t been easy, and even being in a gym at all tonight helped me realize how the game we love most is fleeting and can be gone in an instant. It may not seem like it, but I believe it is important to remember that together, as a community, we can overcome any obstacle in our way, and come out stronger on the other side. Wear a mask, practice social distancing, be patient, love those around you, continue to be the best you can be, and cherish the time you have. Even if your gym is slightly less glamorous than before. Oh yeah...and as for COVID...well, you get the idea.

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