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The impact of the coronavirus can't be ignored, and neither can the memories lost

While public health and human life are of paramount concern during these unprecedented times, a forgotten cost of the COVID-19 pandemic are the lifelong memories associated with high school sports – particularly those of seniors who will never play on a competitive sports team again when it's all over.

For many young people in Newberg and across Oregon, it must feel like that time in their lives is all but finished. While the OSAA is leaving the door open to a return sometime in early May, the increasing severity of this pandemic points to a likely cancellation of spring sports altogether. The school year is in peril as well, leaving many seniors wondering if they will even be able to walk across the stage in their caps and gowns, let alone return to the baseball diamond or tennis courts.

There is plenty to be worried and angry about right now. The health and safety of the people you love feels like it is at risk every time you go somewhere and the places we're allowed to go are decreasing by the day. Our entire daily lives have been turned upside down and the moments so many cherish – be it high school graduations, sporting events or otherwise – are on the chopping block.

People in power are delivering mixed, confusing and delayed messages. Democrats in Salem seemed hesitant to take decisive action until Gov. Kate Brown finally issued her "stay home" order on Monday. At the federal level, President Trump seems more concerned with the virus's impact on the stock market and his re-election chances than actually addressing the public health crisis scourging the nation he's charged with protecting.

Many people, myself included, are worried about losing their jobs. The elderly and immunocompromised are worried about losing their lives. There are undoubtedly more important things right now than high school sports, but let's take a moment to recognize what is being lost for so many young people and their families.

Long bus rides to games, memorable trips to new parts of the state, walk-off home runs, setting records, state championship glory, Senior Night, the final hug with a coach when leaving the field for the last time. All moments that seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but are essential in the development of a young person's character and the lifelong connection they have with their community.

Sports matter. They are an integral part of our culture as both a pastime and entertainment product. At the high school level, they teach valuable life lessons and bind a group of kids and the community rooting for them around a common goal. To be without those opportunities makes towns and cities around Oregon feel even emptier than they already are.

If you can, make some time in the coming weeks and months to thank the young athletes in your community for their sacrifice and dedication to the sports they loved. It might be the only time they hear it outside of special events organized by their schools or teams.

There are a lot of ways for us to support one another in times of crisis. Go grocery shopping for your elderly neighbor who is afraid to leave their home. Make a phone call to a friend you haven't spoken to in a while and ask how they're doing. Order takeout from a local restaurant you love so they can remain afloat. Stay home whether you're sick or not.

And talk to the young athletes in your life. It may not seem like much, but a simple "thanks" for what they've done and a recognition of what they achieved can go a long way.

Ryan Clarke is a reporter at the Newberg Graphic


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