Growing up, I have always heard those around me say, “Don’t take the little things for granted” or “You never know what you have until it’s gone.” And I always took this advice seriously. One of the things that this pandemic has taught me is just how true that is, and how difficult it is to truly appreciate what one has while they still have it.

Among the things I miss most about life before COVID-19 is the stability of normalcy. No matter what other problems I happened to be facing on any particular day, I always tried to take the time to do as I was told and appreciate the “little things.” Now, I miss the daily routine, getting up every morning for school and seeing my friends, going to practice whatever sport was in season, getting homework done, going to bed. I miss things I never thought I would ever have to adjust to life without, like live sports or eating out at a restaurant. Even the stressful or overwhelming times were problems that, while sitting in quarantine last March and April, I wished I could exchange for the isolation we all had to endure. We were together, yet apart.

As someone who just recently became an adult in the world of COVID-19, I could talk about the ways in which just about every aspect of life has changed for the time being. With athletics being a central aspect of my life, I feel that I would be best suited to discuss how the high school sports landscape has changed in these uncertain times.

This soccer season was a wild one. Among the changes made to accommodate for the COVID threat were mandatory mask usage (referees handed out yellow cards to offenders), no throw-ins, no headers, corner kicks and indirect free kicks cannot leave the ground, goalies cannot punt (or throw) the ball over half-field. Our team had to adjust not only to new rules but also to personnel changes on the fly. We were resilient and made our adjustments to bring our best to the field every chance we got. Other precautions, like windows down on bus rides to away games (regardless of snow, rain, cold, etcetera) and temperature checks before practices and games, carried over to basketball season as well.

Basketball has been similarly turbulent so far. Rule changes include mandatory mask usage, no tipoff, no under the basket inbounds, no halftime but longer timeouts and breaks between quarters, free-throw protocol adjustments, and hand sanitizer before and after coming on and off the court. I believe we made a swift adjustment to these changes as well, and all while battling through challenges out of our control.

We spent the season with the thought always lingering in the back of our minds that a positive case could threaten our health and our season. Any day, any one of us could be deemed a close contact and be instructed to get tested and self-isolate for 14 days. While continuing to have sports has provided me some of that stability of normalcy from life before COVID, I find this symbolic of the dynamic and constantly changing world we live in today, that I cannot finish writing about how crazy sports have been this year without facing that reality. Yet leaders emerged on the pitch and the court, and players stepped up to fill key roles, and I have seen this adversity has made us better and more resilient than before.

One thing this pandemic has taught me is that no matter what, if I keep working hard and controlling what I can control, things will work out. So I try to maintain this positive outlook, looking forward to coming out of this era better than I went into it, and with a greater appreciation for the little things because one thing this pandemic has taught me is that those things can often be the truly big things.

William Baker is a senior at Mashpee Middle-High School.

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