In my 8 ½ years as a high school Athletic Director, this has been the question that I’ve been asked most consistently. Many wanted to know what the scoreboard read when the buzzer went off, few wanted to know how we played, and even fewer wanted to know if we “grew” during the contest.
Yesterday the Governor’s Office and the State of Michigan put an end to in-person education due to the COVID-19 pandemic for the 2019-20 school year. Today the MHSAA pulled the plug on finishing the winter sports tournaments as well as the 2020 spring sports season. Based on the situation we are all in, who am I to criticize these decisions. With all the uncertainty in our lives, this is the right call that our leaders had to make.
But the question still remains: how did we do?
We are all swimming in uncharted waters here. This global pandemic has us all scared, confused, and frustrated. As it has pertained to educational athletics the last few weeks, it felt like we were down by two goals with time running out in the second half. It felt like we were down too many points in a super set tiebreak. It looked like we were facing match point in the fifth set of a game. We were trailing in the fourth quarter, and time was running out. Our outlook was pretty grim, and our opportunities to salvage what we have worked so hard for were all but lost. Now that today’s news has become official, the scoreboard says that we have lost.
My heart absolutely breaks for our teams and individuals who lost out on the opportunity to represent themselves, their families, and our school in the sports they are so passionate about. My guts have been twisted in knots thinking about our seniors. I continue to fight back the tears as I think about each of you and what you’re feeling and thinking. Mix this all in with the fact that this is how my time as Athletic Director at South Christian ends, my heart is so heavy that it physically hurts.
But if you believe what we believe, it does not matter. Scoreboards, trophies and banners don’t matter. Results of games do not matter. The fact that we can’t play games does not matter. So what does matter? What matters is how we respond in the face of adversity. What matters is how we react to heartbreak and disappointment. What matters is how Christ-like we are when something we love and desire is no longer an option.
My high school PE teacher, Mr. Ash, who was also my Freshmen Basketball and JV Football coach, used to always recite an Alfred Lord Tennyson quote. He would say, “Copeland, ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die.” At the time I never thought anything of it. It took me a few years to actually understand what it meant, and since September of 2019 with our EEE experience coupled with this current pandemic, it has never been more clear. Bad things happen. They always have and always will; as a result, the “why” should not matter, but what we do has a tremendous effect on those we are responsible for leading.
We are providing on-line education through the end of the school calendar because we are a faith-based education institution that believes in the importance of keeping our kids growing and connected. Our staff is connecting with students daily and are focusing on their mental, physical, and spiritual wellness. We are focusing less on content and more on growth and care. God has provided us with this opportunity, and we are going to do everything in our power to be like Him as we educate our kids.
So–how did we do? I don’t know. Let’s circle up in five years to see what the Coronavirus did to us. Or, what if we circle up in five years and we look at what these trying times did for us? Just like a loss in a game, that is when we grow and learn the most.