As I stood on the sidelines of the DakotaDome in Vermillion on Friday night, I saw a lot of things I didn’t expect to see a few short months ago.
I saw a team in the Pierre T.F. Riggs Governors that many thought could not defeat the then undefeated Brookings Bobcats emerge victorious. Jubilation and elation was all around the sideline. It seems kind of wild that the Govs even made it to Friday night.
Early in the season, the Govs had some games impacted by COVID-19. A game against the eventual Class 11A champions Tea Area Titans was canceled. The game against the Spearfish Spartans saw several starters sit out due to close contact rules. The regular season matchup against the Yankton Bucks saw everything that could go wrong go wrong. The Bobcats defeated the Govs in the regular season in a game that proved to be a turning point.
The Govs football team wasn’t the only one impacted by COVID. The Govs volleyball team also combatted the complications that COVID brought on. There was a two week stretch where the Govs volleyball team did not play a match. After that break, the Govs lost seven straight matches, all of which were to teams that will play in this week’s Class AA State Volleyball Tournament.
At the beginning of the season, I was admittedly apprehensive on whether or not a season for anything would happen. I expected COVID-19 to be as bad during the season as it currently is, but it wasn’t, at least not in our area. The fact that we’ve had our seasons come and go without too much controversy is pretty remarkable. With the platform that I have, and next week being Thanksgiving, I figured some thank yous are in order.
The first thank you goes to the administration. The South Dakota High School Activities Association has done a pretty good job so far given the circumstances. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy. Some teams didn’t get a chance at all to play, particularly the schools on the reservations. Schools such as Rapid City Central, Rapid City Stevens and others could not compete in the postseason due to COVID cases. As for our local administrators, athletic directors at Sully Buttes, Stanley County and Pierre deserve some recognition. They’ve had to deal with cancellations due to COVID and much more that we probably don’t know or have heard about. They’ve had to make sure that people follow COVID-19 protocols for social distancing and masking. They deserve some sort of recognition.
The teachers and coaches have had a lot to deal with as well. Aside from their standard duties of teaching and grading assignments, teachers have had to make sure that their classrooms adhere to COVID protocols. They have had rules changed on them, whether that be with distance learning, changes to practice and in-person education, and the elimination of the pep band for a lot of events. In my opinion, we’ve got some very good teachers in the area, and they all deserve more credit for what they do. Some parents in the area more than likely gained a bigger appreciation for what teachers do when they had to teach their kids during the beginning of the pandemic.
The kids also deserve a bit of credit. During a pandemic, it can be pretty easy to want to hang out with your friends. However, doing that safely can be an issue. Yes, we’ve had COVID cases, but it doesn’t seem nearly as bad when you compare Pierre to the Rapid schools or Harrisburg. From what I’ve been able to see, the kids have acted responsibly. They’ve done a good job of wearing masks, particularly at volleyball matches. I’d like to thank them for that.
I have to thank the seniors in particular for what they’ve done. I interned at the Capital Journal during the summer of 2016, but I came back during the winter of 2017. Those that are seniors now were freshmen in 2017-2018. I’ve seen these athletes grow from inexperienced athletes prone to making their fair share of mistakes to experienced veterans who lead by example. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be able to cover their athletic exploits, and to see them grow into great young men and women.
Now that the fall seasons are over for our local teams, the winter seasons are starting to begin. Wrestlers are hitting the mat, and gymnasts are training. Hockey players are hitting the ice. Basketball players will start up once volleyball is over. The state’s COVID numbers are pretty high. If you’ve made it this far, I implore you to do all that you can to make sure the winter sports athletes get the same opportunities that the fall sports athletes did. Yes, I expect there to be hiccups. There will be postponed games and events, because there always seems to be during the winter months. Usually those postponements are due to bad weather. Make sure those postponements aren’t due to bad personal choices. Stay healthy out there, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.