DANIEL YOUNGBLOOD: Seniors’ response to COVID-19 shutdown one we all could learn from

The 2019-20 school year is officially over, and a new crop of seniors will soon be ushered into the “real world.”

In that way — and that way only — this year is like most before it. 

But anyone who’s been conscious the past three months knows this is not a normal year. The COVID-19 outbreak has made sure of that, impacting lives worldwide and, on a local level, stripping this graduation class of the pomp and circumstance typically reserved for graduating seniors.

While the virus itself has hit certain age groups harder than others, the effects of this global pandemic have spared no demographic. And among those most impacted in the Big Country have been the aforementioned seniors, who have not only lost their spring sport seasons (and had their athletic careers ended prematurely, in many cases) but have also lost many of the rights of passage and memories many associate with their final year of high school.

But if you think it’s all negative or just need some hope for the future, I would encourage you to check out our What Might Have Been feature series. Because revealed in these stories of the area players and teams most affected by the COVID-19 shutdown is a maturity that makes this group as well equipped as any I’ve seen to tackle whatever challenges lie ahead.

If that strikes you as cliché, I understand. Similar things have been said in commencement addresses to and of every graduation class in history.

But not all classes have been tested the way this one has — or would have fared as well if they had been.

For a generation often (and unfairly) accused of being entitled, this group of kids was dealt a truly unfair hand and played it in a way that should make their parents proud and teach us, as a society, a lesson.

The fact that these 18-year-olds can take a once-in-a-century situation, make sense of it and respond to that adversity in a mature and resilient way should serve as evidence to us adults that a) we can/should be doing the same and b) our future’s in much better hands than the cynics would have us believe.

That, to me, is one of the biggest takeaways from this ordeal. And as a glass-half-empty guy by nature, it’s one I needed.

Evan Ren and I came up with our What Might Have Been series as a way to highlight kids who had had their seasons and experiences stolen by COVID-19. But in talking to these athletes and learning their stories, I’ve been uplifted.

These aren’t the personal pity parties one might expect. They are, instead, thoughtful reflections on the past, present and future by kids who have clearly been raised and coached well.

The disappointment comes through, as is only natural given the circumstances. But it’s almost always couched in a big-picture view I may or may not have had at that age.

I know, as a former high school baseball player, how much it would have hurt to lose my senior season. And that was as a thoroughly average talent on a three-win team.

I can only imagine the heartbreak a standout athlete with state aspirations might feel. But in talking to many such athletes, I’ve learned that pain, while real, can be dealt with in a mature, productive way.

And if there’s a better lesson to learn/teach as one prepares for their entrance to the “real world,” I’m hard-pressed to think what it might be.

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