Have you ever wondered what life would be like without sports?

Now we know. And it isn’t fun. No NCAA basketball tournament. No traditional Major League Baseball Opening Days. No professional basketball or hockey playoffs. No Little League or youth soccer. The Summer Olympics have been delayed for at least a year. And the list of community cancellations and postponements is nearly endless.

If you’re a high school sports fan, the disappointment runs even deeper, and it strikes much closer to home. The interruption of school has played havoc with the spring sports season here in Wyoming. Months of expectation and intense training appear to have been wasted for hundreds of high school sports teams. And depending where you live, the dream of scoring a decisive victory over an archrival or competing for a state championship has been permanently surrendered.

It’s “wait ’til next year” for freshmen, sophomores and juniors. But for most of the high school seniors who participate in a spring sport, this is more than a lost season. It’s the end of an active sports career. The NCAA estimates that, depending on the sport, only about three percent of all high school athletes go on to play a sport in college.

The senior soccer player who has been playing since they were five years old will never have the opportunity to score a goal again. The champion runner who has diligently trained to shatter the high school state record may never compete in the 800 again. The young man and woman who were elected captains of their tennis or golf teams will never know what this spring would have had in store for them.

But here’s what will happen, and it’s significant. That soccer player has learned that soccer is about far more than trying to score a goal; it’s about a group of young men and women from vastly different backgrounds coming together as a team. The sprinter has discovered that if a person has enough determination, barriers once thought impossible can be broken. And the captains of the tennis and golf teams will take the leadership skills they have learned as a student-athlete and apply them to everything they do for the rest of their lives.

Their seasons – indeed, their athletic careers – may be over, but the character those senior athletes have developed because they participated in education-based high school sports lives on. It will encourage, guide and positively influence communities here in Wyoming for the next generation and beyond.

High school seniors, thank you for the contribution you have made to your team, your school and your community. And thank you for the shared sacrifice you are making right now.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” To those WHSAA student-athletes who graduate this spring, you may have lost your senior sports season, but you have gained both intelligence and character because you participated in high school athletics. Best wishes for continued growth and success.

(Karissa Niehoff is the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations and Ron Laird is the commissioner of the Wyoming High School Activities Association.)

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