Ever since I was 7 years old, from the second week of August until Thanksgiving, my days were consumed with going to school and going to football practice.
In the middle of August, I’m normally grinding out practices drenched in sweat doing different drills and being coached to make me a better player while some of my friends would be chilling out at the beach soaking up the last days of summer vacation.
There were many times when I thought to myself, why am I doing this? Or, there are so many other things I could be doing rather than being physically and mentally drained.
I would be lying if I didn’t say I was miserable at times.
But all those drills, being yelled at for making a mistake, and all the physical fatigue prepared me for the bigger goal of the team winning games later in the fall.
Those feelings, which have been such a huge part of my life, just aren’t there this year with the worldwide pandemic that we are living.
Most small schools, like Castleton, cancelled their fall sports seasons in early August, which changed my normal late summer-fall routine that I was so used to since second grade.
There was no preseason football camp, no team bonding activities, and no team meetings to prepare us for a season playing opponents from all over the Northeast.
The feeling of strapping up your helmet, shoulder pads, and cleats that was so normal for me was nonexistent this fall.
No Sap Bucket.
There’s a feeling about game days that I cannot explain. Whether it was in high school being under the lights Friday nights or in college playing Saturday afternoons, it’s a feeling you only know about if you have played the sport of football.
That feeling is missing from my life.
Football this fall is non padded, distanced, and the only piece of equipment we have on ourselves is a mask.
Just like normal day-to-day life, the mask has been the focus of practice. Coaches make sure players are constantly wearing their mask to protect others from the invisible opponent, COVID-19.
There is no sound of plastic hitting plastic, balls hitting hands, or the sound of “ready break” when the team breaks the huddle to come up to the line to run a play.
All these things that just last year were a normal part of my life have been taken away. I know that eventually the adult cannot play the kid’s game anymore and your time as a player comes to an end.
But the feeling of having it taken away and not having control of it is a feeling that I have never felt before.
All this chaos has made me think how sports are a privilege that is taken for granted.
Those moments of struggle and feelings of victory are something that I miss and when I get the chance to feel them again, I will not think twice about other things I could be doing.
Football has taught me so many life lessons on how to fight through adversity and those lessons are what is going to get me through the adversity of COVID-19.