I have never been on board with the everyone-gets-a-trophy crowd, but what our local high school athletes, coaches and athletic directors overcame this shortened fall high school sports season deserves all the credit we can give them.
We will forever be grateful for our police officers, firefighters and medical professionals who put their lives on the line day in and day out during the pandemic, as well as our other front line workers like grocery store employees who are also in harm’s way.
In a world that is screaming for a little bit of normalcy to return, the athletes and coaches from Naugatuck and Woodland stepped forward and gave us — especially us local sportswriters — just that, and I for one say they all deserve a trophy.
Granted, the fall season wasn’t a typical one due to the guidelines and restrictions mandated by the state designed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
There weren’t the usual rivalries as Naugatuck Valley League teams played against only a handful of opponents within regional divisions, or a NVL postseason for that matter.
Volleyball players had to go all out to dig, spike and serve the ball while wearing masks in mostly empty gyms. I wish I was allowed to play with a mask on in high school. Then the fans wouldn’t have been able to tell who that pitcher was that walked the bases loaded.
Swimmers, at times, competed against invisible opponents in pools miles away during virtual meets.
Social distancing at cross country meets didn’t appear to be an issue since the whole concept of the sport is to separate yourself from the competition.
For the most part, soccer is a game where separation from the competition is first and foremost, but rarely accomplished as the pushing and shoving for possession oftentimes turns into a fist full of jersey. And masks on the field of play were nowhere in sight.
My heart goes out to every high school football player and coach who spent a great deal of time and effort preparing for a season that never came and looks like it never will because of the up close and personal nature of the sport.
The Greyhounds were able to compete as a team in 7-on-7 games that also featured linemen challenges, but it didn’t compare to playing on Friday night under the lights at Veterans Field.
Some Woodland players found solace and full tackle football in the Connecticut Independent High School Football League, if only for a couple of games. And for that, they were thankful.
“I could not be more grateful knowing that most of the state didn’t get to play and I’m a part of a small group that had the opportunity to get on the field,” Woodland junior Jason Palmieri Palmieri said in a previous interview with the Citizen’s News. “I really couldn’t be more grateful.”
One would think that face shields on helmets would have solved any issue and allowed for players to suit up on the gridiron for their high schools. But the fight went beyond those who played the game and was put into the hands of officials who tried to account for every situation that could arise under the sun.
I get it. Keeping kids safe is the ultimate goal, and that is understandable and admirable. That should be and was the top priority of everyone involved.
This past fall season has truly been one like no other. I never thought that I would begin my 25th year covering sports not on the sidelines or in the gym to bring readers the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Now that I think of it, maybe I should get a trophy as well, along with countless parents who missed out on routing for their favorite players — their children.
Why don’t we all get a trophy for making it through this season — a season we surely won’t soon forget.