These are tough times for sports fans. Life would be a lot better if we got to watch the Milwaukee Brewers’ early-season rise to the top of the National League Central Division and the Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff drive to an NBA title, but that will have to wait as the sports world is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has not been easy on sports fans and sports journalists. Watching reruns of old games helps a little bit, but the unknown outcome is what makes sports great.

The ones who are really getting hit hard are the athletes. Not the highly-paid professionals, but the ones playing for the love of sports at the high school and college levels.

While it saddens me to not hear the crack of a baseball hitting a bat, the sound of pads smacking in lacrosse and the cheer of the crowd after a big goal in soccer, I know I will hear it all again in the years to come. I will have more chances to cover spring sports in DeForest, Lodi and Poynette, but the same cannot be said for some of the athletes.

It is heartbreaking to think about the thousands of high school seniors who had their final athletic seasons end before they even got started. Most will never get a chance to suit up again and all of their hard work and dedication is wiped out just like that.

It is not just the lost opportunities to win conference and state championships, it’s the lost memories of those special moments all athletes cherish. The long bus rides, the team dinners and the time spent hanging out before and after practice are what former athletes remember most later in life. The seniors have been robbed of all of this.

The spring season had the potential to be special for area athletes. The Poynette softball team looked to be even better as they pursued their third straight state title, the DeForest softball team was a good bet to win its sixth straight Badger North Conference title, the Norski baseball team had the potential roster to make a serious run at state and the Lodi track squad has some of the most promising young talent in Wisconsin. We will never know what truly could have been.

It is not just the spring athletes who have dreams dashed by the pandemic. The DeForest boys basketball team was playing extremely well and was one win away from the program’s second trip to state when the WIAA officially stopped all sports.

While the pain of what has and will be lost may never go away, seniors can take great pride in the sacrifice they are making to help in the safety of the country. It may be hard to understand now, but your lost season may have saved lives.

The sacrifice may not be to the level of that of first responders and healthcare workers, but it cannot be dismissed. Those precious few weeks competing in sports are the world to high school athletes. It is all they know in their young lives.

Hopefully, this all can serve as a reminder to the younger athletes to enjoy the precious few years you have to compete in athletics. It is such a small window and it can end in the blink of the eye.

I will try to do my part in recognizing the sacrifices of these athletes and will be highlighting some of the area seniors in the coming weeks.

Stay safe.

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