If the majority of high school athletes were used to taking the easy way out, they probably wouldn’t be student-athletes in the first place.
On top of the immense pressures that come with being a teenager, student-athletes elect to sacrifice their time and effort to represent their schools on the fields and courts of athletic play. The sacrifices made by many just to participate in high school sports are often unspoken, and they’re the kind a lot of us would shy away from.
That’s why we wanted to give final recognition to youths from the Lincoln County School District who managed to persevere through the pandemic’s darkest days, and finally got to compete in Oregon Schools Activities Association Season 2 sports for a six-week period beginning the first week of March and culminating April 10.
Season 2 prep sports are the ones traditionally played in the fall — volleyball, football and boys and girls cross country and soccer. During this most unconventional school year, Season 2 athletes in the district first began gathering with their teams in October in hopes the spread of COVID-19 would soon subside and interscholastic competition would be allowed to begin.
That, of course, did not happen, and Season 2 activities didn’t actually begin until late this winter. While navigating the uncharted territory of hosting athletic events during a pandemic, the Lincoln County School District forbade spectator attendance at games until the final week of March, the fifth week of the six-week season of competition. Spectator and media member attendance continues to be limited as Season 3 sports began this week.
Many of us who aren’t parents of school-aged children didn’t get to witness firsthand the effects the pandemic had on area youths. We never truly understood how difficult it could be for kids who weren’t allowed to socialize, go to school or participate in sports and other extracurricular activities with friends due to circumstances beyond their control.
On April 2, under the Friday night lights in Waldport, I was there as the Irish football team hosted Neah-Kah-Nie in Waldport’s first home contest with fans in the stands. It was difficult to tell who enjoyed the evening more, the players, the spectators or even game announcer and Waldport Athletic Director Steve Cooper.
Attendance that night was limited to two spectators per athlete, or eight for each senior for their Senior Night ceremony. And the game itself was a blowout in Waldport’s favor, but the numbers on the scoreboard that night didn’t feel all that important.
Despite trailing 44-0 at halftime, not one player for Neah-Kah-Nie displayed the body language usually seen when a team is losing by more than six touchdowns. On the field and the sidelines, Waldport players expressed the kind of pure joy that warms the heart.
These are the moments that make high school sports so special. It was a great effort on behalf of the school district and the athletes to pull off a Season 2 sports campaign, and we couldn’t be more thankful.