Life without basketball was “exhausting” and the prep players in the Lansing area longed for the chance to compete

Local high school basketball teams wondered if the COVID-19 pandemic would wipe out another season. Right now they have their chance to play.

EAST LANSING, Michigan – Almost a year before their season ended, Michigan high school basketball coaches, players, and administrators wondered if winter contact sports would ever begin.

After the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services moved the 2021 season to February 21, some athletes became confused and frustrated.

“When I found out our season was being held back for the first time, I was disappointed because I had obviously raised my hopes,” said Skyy Lockhart, a senior center at Grand Ledge High School. “I was really confused; I said, ‘OK, let’s get started? Aren’t we?’ Then it started … we were finally back in the gym – we should be playing, and then we never played.

“At that point, I was like, ‘OK, this is the new thing – we pretend we’re playing and then we’re held back’ … that’s how it was.”

It has been a particular challenge for several seniors, including Lockhart, who have been playing basketball since elementary school and want nothing more than to be reunited with a sport they love.

Morgan Hetherington, a dual sport athlete and senior point guard at Grand Ledge, had her spring sport ripped away due to the coronavirus pandemic and was devastated when basketball received an additional postponement.

“This is the hardest part because I’m a spring athlete too. When my spring sport was canceled last year, I understood a little better because COVID-19 was new.” Hetherington said: “… We see other states play and even though our odds are not the highest, we still don’t play. It makes me angry, it’s my last season.

“I’ve been playing basketball since second grade and I play with the same group of girls and we’re always like ‘our senior season’ … we’ll go and it’ll be the best.” Season… I’m not alone because all of my friends I’ve played with are also seniors and we just sit here and say, ‘Now what? ‘… “

Heatherington continued, “It sucks and it’s really sad because all my life I’ve been waiting for not just my senior year but my senior basketball season – it’s supposed to be about the seniors, and now it’s COVID right now accepted. It didn’t feel real at all. It didn’t feel like I was playing basketball. It expires. “

While a definite risk of spreading COVID remains, the rewards for the youth who continue to be hard hit by the pandemic are substantial. There is a mental health component that is hard to ignore.

Lessons can be learned through exercise, including teamwork, discipline, focus, honor, selflessness, fighting adversity, and winning and losing.

Without athletics, they feel like they have lost part of themselves.

“It’s tough … I think everyone got it in the beginning, and we were able to streamline a lot with these kids with the Christmas and Thanksgiving break,” said Kacee Reid, Lansing Catholic girls’ trainer, at this point I have the feeling that the latest addition to the restrictions really drained our team. They show up every day; they work off their tails; They have a good attitude but you can absolutely see that they lost something … As a coach, it’s difficult to keep telling them it’s going to happen. “

When Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the return of four winter sports during a press conference on February 11, coaches and players were delighted.

“It was almost too good to be true,” said Travis Schellhammer, the university coach for the Grand Ledge Boys. “These kids have been through so much … so many emotions and everything. So, to finally get that confirmation. I mean, everything is leaked early on and kids are on Twitter and see it, but to actually hear that governor’s mouth – only on Christmas morning, you know what I mean? I just have goosebumps. “

With the games being postponed to the college and professional levels, they now realize that it is not time to relax. There is much to be done if these schools are to play all 18 games in six weeks.

There will be challenges.

Following the COVID-19 protocols, monitoring their teams / players and trusting their athletes to stay vigilant and safe as they exit the building are just a few of them.

Even so, Reid, Schellhammer, and Beth Perez, Grand Ledge’s girls’ college trainer, are ready.

“It really doesn’t change what we did or what we said in terms of getting smart. We wear the masks but we also do the things we have to do when we’re not on the field,” said Perez. “Keep your distance and follow all of these guidelines. Don’t just try to get started, make sure we can get through it and actually finish it this season as well.”

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