I found out on Tuesday that this past weekend officially marked the end of my summer basketball season. I coached a 15U (kids heading into their sophomore year) team this summer at Omaha Sports Academy, and for obvious reasons, this summer was unlike any I’ve experienced before.
Typically, the grassroots season runs from April through July with a break in June. Last year, my team played 38 games. This summer, we didn’t even start until July and we topped out at 28 games, playing into September. The season has never gone this long, which has led to a lot of uncertainty the past few weeks—will we or won’t we play?
The answer this week was finally “won’t.” I had a blast this summer with my team. I had a smart, hard-working group that played really well together on both ends, and the families were great as well. We went 22-6 and won four tournament titles. This was by far the most successful season I’ve had in my six years with OSA, and I really wish we could have gotten a full-length, normal season together.
That being said, back in March I didn’t think we’d get any summer basketball at all. I know there are a lot of teams in other parts of the country that didn’t play at all, and I’m grateful the kids here got the opportunity to play, particularly the seniors. In addition to my own team, I’ve helped my friend Derek Porter coach his team the last three years and this summer was that squad’s last chance to play grassroots basketball as they’re now seniors. I’m grateful they had that opportunity.
I’m even more grateful that we were able to hold these events without any known breakouts of COVID-19. I personally only know one person who came down with the virus after spending time at tournaments and he recovered just fine.
After four or so months with nowhere to go and nothing to do, the structure of the summer basketball season has been much-needed. It’s given me something to look forward to, something to keep working towards. Normally my schedule in the fall is built around the Husker sports calendar. I’d already have a couple football games, a few volleyball matches and a handful of practices and press conferences under my belt at this point. Losing out on the fall sports season for the Huskers has been rough on those of us who cover the team just like it has been on all of you, the fans.
For us here at Hail Varsity, we’ve decided to lean more heavily into Nebraska preps coverage to fill the void. I’ve covered three football games, and several volleyball matches through the first couple of weeks, and every coach and player I’ve interviewed has expressed appreciation for the opportunity to play. I’m planning to be at another volleyball match on Thursday and another football game on Friday this week, and the rest of the team will be out and about covering games as well.
Both the Big Ten and OPS have determined it’s not worth the risk to grant those opportunities to the student-athletes under their jurisdiction. I’m not here to pass judgment one way or the other on those decisions. Personally, I wish both would have at least attempted to hold their seasons like many others before shutting it down, but I’m also fully aware I’m nowhere near educated enough on this subject to know what is right and what is wrong (n matter what I’ve read on the internet).
We’re still in the early stages of college football and indoor/contact high school sports. It’s still possible that the Big Ten and OPS have made the right decision here, as much as we all want the student-athletes at all levels to be able to play. We just can’t know the answer right now, which is ultimately what seems to have led to the Big Ten’s decision — the uncertainty surrounding the novel coronavirus and the long-term effects of COVID-19.
This all brings me back to the same mental space I was in way back in late June when I got word that summer basketball got the OK to start up. It’s something I love and it’s going to happen with or without me, so I’m going to be there while doing my best to make smart decisions. However, the entire time I’ll have my fingers figuratively crossed, hoping that nothing disastrous happens as a result of these sporting events. That nagging feeling is always there at the back of my mind.
Even so, I’m choosing to embrace the opportunity I’ve been given to keep dong what I love. This could all come to an end at any time, so I’m going to enjoy every match and every game I cover, just like I enjoyed each and every basketball game I coached this summer (even the losses).
Hopefully before too long we can return to normal life where our schedules are set in stone (or at least, on our devices) and we’re not constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, but until then I think it’s best to live by the old cliché and take things day by day.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.