NOVAK: We are so close, and yet so far when it comes to fall sports starting

Monday morning, fall sports practice is scheduled to begin for high school football in Michigan, while two days later, the rest of the sports teams can begin preseason training.

For three sports, football, volleyball and soccer, there is no official date as to when they can begin competition. For girls golf, boys tennis and cross country, they can start their competitions on time, either Aug. 19 or Aug. 20, with certain guidelines in place.

We are so close to returning to high school sports. I can taste it. I am so excited, as I have not covered high school sports since mid-March. But I am also holding my breath because I know with one surge of coronavirus in our state, that could all be wiped out in a moment’s notice.

For the purposes of this column, I am going to stay positive and believe that starting Monday. I will be making the rounds to various sports practices to shoot some pictures and video. I know I cannot wait to see the coaches, many of whom I have become close friends with over my nearly four decades of covering athletics in southwest Michigan.

I look forward to the sound of a clubface striking a golf ball, or the sound the tennis racquet makes when it hits the ball. I cannot wait to take that first deep breath of air that will be filled with the smell of fresh-cut grass and newly painted lines on the football and soccer fields.

I cannot wait to hear the sound of shoes squeaking on the newly waxed gym floors as volleyball players put down those first scuffs of the season.

There is nothing like high school sports. They are far superior to college and professional sports in my estimation. I say that because at the high school level, most of the kids I have the honor of covering are not jaded. They still are playing the games because they love sports.

Most of them still believe that amateur athletics is a privilege and not a right. There are those whose only focus is getting a scholarship to college and still believe that given the right circumstances and hard work, may get a shot at advancing beyond the college level.

I admire those athletes who are good enough to play at the next level. I was never good enough to even think about that. As I look back on my high school years, I wish I would have been more dedicated and willing to put in that extra work to get a shot at playing collegiate sports, but I ended up on a different course. One that led me to covering those athletes instead. I love seeing those athletes compete on the field, but honestly, my heart goes out to those who are playing the game for the love of the sport.

In youth sports, it is those kids who are chasing butterflies in the outfield. In high school, it is that player who may not always get their name in the story because they do not fill up the box score. Those are the boys and girls who make high school sports special. The ones that are not going to get that college scholarship offer are usually the ones that are the glue for a team.

Those players are the ones that when things get tough, they rally their teammates around them and keep them pushing forward toward victory.

I was asked on Thursday how I was handling not covering sports. I told them it is getting tougher as the days go by. I am not a huge professional sports person. I will watch some of the bigger events, but this year I have found myself not even doing that because without the fans, there is something missing in a game on television.

I am more than likely about to face that same situation at the high school level, where there will be no fans to bring that emotional support to their teams. There is an electricity in the air at high school events. That could be missing, at least at the start of the fall season. I honestly do not know how that is going to make me feel.

For now, I am going to bring the energy and the electricity as I cannot wait to get back out there and start covering sports. I know I will probably not be able to sleep Sunday night, but that is okay, because I am going to be ready to hit the ground running on Monday morning.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com.

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