COLUMN: Optimism over the return of prep sports is served with a side of caution

Pierre LaBossiere

It’s hard to believe, but we’re slowly creeping up on an entire year without prep or juco sports on the North Olympic Peninsula.

By the time local sports do return, hopefully in mid-February (fingers seriously crossed), it will be roughly 11 months since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sporting events.

What a rough year it’s been. People out of work, businesses shut down, some for good. No weekend trips to Canada. And those are the minor hassles. At this point, virtually all of us personally know someone who has been affected longterm or died from COVID-19.

Honestly, driving back from Oregon during a weekend in Portland last March when the first shutdowns were being announced, I never envisioned this ordeal would last more than a few weeks. I honestly believed everything would be back to normal by summer. I never envisioned just how stubborn the virus was. And how difficult it would be for Americans to respond to it.

A lost year for sports

Also lost during that year were sports and other extra-curricular activities taken away from local kids.

It appeared sports might return last fall, and then might return at the end of December, only to be thwarted by the pandemic getting worse in Washington.

Now, finally after a couple of disappointments, it appears that maybe, actually, finally some sports really are returning very soon, with practices beginning the first week of February and actual competitions possibly as early as mid-February.

I find myself hedging here, using a lot of maybes and perhaps, because I’m still finding it hard to believe it might actually be happening. I still feel a need to have a big toe hanging out the door, ready to bail on the idea of returning to sports. I find that part of me is afraid to believe that we’re probably, maybe going back to sports. Oh, there I go again. Hedging.

The reason I’m hedging is that it’s still not 100 percent sports are happening. Is it 90 percent? Seventy-five percent? Fifty percent? I just don’t know. Cross country is probably a lock because it’s considered a low-risk sport where competitors can maintain some social distancing.

For the other “fall” sports — football, girls soccer and volleyball — we apparently still have some work to do. We need to get into Phase 2 for those sports to start, but I’ve been told that our region is not too far away from Phase 2. It’s frustrating because there continues to be things out of our control that will ultimately decide if sports can come back. There’s only so much Clallam and Jefferson counties can do to control what the virus is doing in Kitsap and Mason counties.

So, again, I’m left hedging. And hoping.

Personally, I was very lucky. I did surprisingly all right financially through the pandemic, much better than a lot of people I know. In addition to feeling sorry for the kids, I feel sorry for all the servers and restaurant workers around town. How rough has it been for some of them? I sort of enjoyed being part-time through the summer and spent much of that summer exploring the wilds of Olympic National Park. I ended up getting in the best shape I’ve been in for about six or seven years.

But, I have badly missed covering sports. That said, I can’t imagine what the kids must have gone through this past year, but I’m hoping in the long run, they learned to appreciate more the opportunity to play sports, because it certainly shocked me how thoroughly and quickly that opportunity was lost. The tenuousness of our society shocked me.

A lot of these kids didn’t have a Pearl Harbor in their youth or a Kennedy assassination or a 9/11. This pandemic feels like all those moments rolled into one. Something they’ll talk about and remember the rest of their lives.

And hopefully, 20 or 30 years from now, when they’re warned about a dangerous virus and a potential pandemic, they’ll take it more seriously than many of us did a year ago.

Hope to see you all soon, very soon, back on local sports fields.

________

Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]

Pierre LaBossiere

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