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A slap on the butt

High school football has returned to the State of Texas with the first day of practice on Monday. Back were the crack of the pads, the drills, and the sprints and all of the rest that make the sport something special.
But like so many other things in our world today, football has a new look.
I can’t imagine how it must feel to our coaches on the field, as they try to go about the business of getting a new squad of players ready for another season. It is different out there. There is a presence looming around the field giving the coaches, and the players, a sense of unease.

Picture a world where this scenario plays out.
A coach is on the practice field trying to teach his boys a new play. They run it over and over with no success. Hands are still soft and untrained, and the coach can’t find anyone it seems that can catch the ball. His quarterback has skills. He gets the pass to where it is supposed to go, but nobody can catch the pigskin. Then, it happens.
The receiver runs his route, the QB throws a perfect toss, and instead of yet another drop, the receiver makes the catch, and the coach’s new play is executed perfectly.

On practice fields all over the country, this would usually be met by a coach yelling out an “atta boy” or maybe a slap on the butt ( a football tradition I must add) or maybe even a coach running over to the sure handed tight end to congratulate him on a job well done.
But not this year. This year, things are different.
No, this year, the coach jumps and heads toward his tight end and about mid step he realizes, he can’t finish his trip. He pulls back, leaving he and his player at a loss.
This year, there are masks. There are social distancing rules, hand washing stations, and the impacts of a virus are seen everywhere you look. Players have to be six feet apart during drills. All of the coaches have masks on. It is surreal.
But, there is still football.

There is much the same going on in the gym with girl’s volleyball. Maybe even the band performances will look different this year. The challenges are everywhere.
Odds are that we will be seeing changes every day. There is even a chance that Friday night lights could be moved to Wednesday, or the weekend, or whenever schools can agree to have a game. The schedules are shorter. Long time rivals may not play this year. Games might even be decided by a coin toss instead of being decided on the field. We really just don’t know.
Yes, we could lament the negative impacts of all of the changes. Yes, we can all sit around and argue that masks are good, or masks are pointless. We can argue until the final whistle whether or not there is a drug that works to cure the virus, or whether the whole dang thing is a political ploy, conjured up by evil people for evil reasons. We could even argue over whether there should be sports being played at all.

I won’t be doing any of that arguing. Here is the bottom line to me.
On fields all over the state on Monday, athletes took to practice fields and practice gyms to play sports. They do so because there is something special about high school sports. A locker room holds a spirit of family, kinship, a brotherhood or sisterhood, that can only be found in places where you are part of a team. When you have a well knit team, there is a sense of pride, a unity, and a feeling of doing something special that is so quickly left behind when a student graduates high school. Most do not go on to the next level. Most may never feel that kinship again the rest of their lives. Many may have never felt it anywhere else.
We need it I think  now, more than ever. We need to feel like we are a part of something. We need to break the chains of isolation, distancing and quarantine. We all need to feel like we are not alone, and being on a team gives our kids that one of a kind feeling.

So, I say, let them play. If we have to watch on tv or listen on a live stream, so be it. But, let the kids play ball.
I can only imagine how the coaches out there may feel this year, but you know what, they are out there giving it their best shot. I’m sure they don’t like wearing a mask anymore than the rest of us, they don’t like having to spend more time keeping kids six feet apart than actually running plays, but our coaches know the importance of being there, because they were kids once, and they remember.
So, this week, as our schools embark on a path to “boldly go where no man has gone before” I simply ask that we support them in their endeavors. Pray for them all, from the administrator to the part-time aide, from the coach to the water boy, and from the teacher to the student.

We all need this. Let’s pray we find a way, and that the Lord above is looking down and He sees that we need our lives back, the kids need their normal back, and that we all might see our need for Him.
I know one thing. If I had made a catch that nobody before me could make, I would want my slap on the butt.

Bowie County Citizens Tribune

139 E.N. Front Street
New Boston, Texas 75570