Make the right choices. Do the right things. Keep showing up.
A 2020 graduate offers advice to athletes facing change
Posted: Monday, August 10, 2020 - 11:03 AM
The people impacted the most by recent MSHSL decisions about sports and seasons are high school students. The response I have seen from students has been overwhelming positive, with the main reaction a sense of relief that no sports seasons have been cancelled, as sadly was the case last spring.
Here is a letter to current students, authored by a 2020 high school graduate. Gracie Mallak, from Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, was ann all-state honoree in track and cross-country and will compete in both at South Dakota State University. Grace offers important perspective and crucial advice in this well-written letter…
Dear high school athletes,
I want to start by saying I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all of the uncertainty and heartbreak that you’ve experienced these past several months. You’re supposed to be kids, having fun with your friends and teammates, creating memories that will last a lifetime. Instead, you’ve missed out on countless athletic experiences, you’ve missed being surrounded by your teammates and coaches, you’ve had to create a new “normal” for yourselves. No one has walked in your shoes and no one can truly say they know what you’re going through. While I can share in some of your pain, I don’t know exactly what you’re experiencing right now so I’m not going to act like I do. Instead, I’m just going to offer you a few things to think on.
I think we all need to give each other a little grace during these times. This is new and scary for all of us. We are all doing the best we can to navigate our lives and determine what the “correct” steps are in moving forward. It’s easy to be angry at those making the decisions on cancellations and postponements. However, we need to give them grace and understand that they are being asked to fill shoes that no one in the past has been asked to fill. They want to allow you to get back out on that field just as much as you want to be out there, but they also understand the consequences that may come from foolishly making the “popular” decision. Whether you agree or disagree with the decisions being made, let’s choose to treat each other with grace and remind ourselves that we’re all doing the best we can right now.
Give yourself grace and understand that it’s ok (and frankly, quite normal) to be angry, frustrated, and upset. However, as you’re giving yourself grace to feel those things, don’t quit working toward your goals. It won’t be easy, you’re going to have to get flexible, and there are going to be days when it seems pointless but keep pushing forward. Make the right choices. Do the right things. Keep showing up. Your actions and your dedication to your teammates and your coaches matter now more than ever before.
It’s easy to throw in the towel right now and to be the kid who says, “Sports are postponed. I’m going to do what I want to do now.” It’s tough to be the kid who puts his head down and says, “Sports are postponed and they’re going to look different but I’m going to choose to keep working toward those goals.” Be a leader. Tom Landry once said, “Leadership is a matter if having people look at you and gain confidence…if you’re in control, they’re in control.” Be the one who stays grounded in the midst of the chaos. Be the one on the team who acknowledges the unique situation you are being faced with and find a way to use it to your advantage. Season postponed? More time to get stronger and faster. Season shortened/modified? Use it as an opportunity to perfect the little things and focus on being at the top of your game when you are given the opportunity to compete.
I know this is a frustrating time to be a high school athlete and I am in no way trying to downplay the situation but let’s just take a moment to put this into perspective. If the worst part of your day today is the fact that your sports season will look different, you’re living a pretty good life! While sports are fun and while they truly provide some of the most amazing moments, there are a lot more important things in this life than throwing touchdown passes, getting that 1000th hit, or winning the Milaca Mega Meet. In the grand scheme of things, I hope you are able to look back and understand that while the circumstances were unfortunate, you made the decision to look at it from a broader perspective and perceive that despite your anger in these times, you had a lot to be grateful for.
In closing I want to challenge you to use this time to grow as a person. It is rewarding to grow as an athlete but growing as a person is of far more significance. Find out who you are beyond athletics and figure out how to use your newfound knowledge to become the best athlete and person you can be. Your ability to persevere through these times says more about who you are as a person than any athletic achievement ever will. We’re all in this together.
2020 graduate of Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School
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