I would be remiss if I didn't write about the current situation that is happening in this world. On Friday, March 13th, 2020 I was finishing up my day teaching. A lot of kids had been talking about the Coronavirus that day. High school kids are always up to date on what is going on. They use their technology in ways us older people could never even imagine. At that point, the only news I really knew about it was that it had originated in China and that it had spread. I knew Italy was being hit hard, but much like all other things you hear in world news, you don't really think it will affect the United States. Sadly, that thought was very wrong.
By Sunday night, Ryan, Marc and I were sitting in the kitchen at Marc's house trying to decide what to do with RPM. We care so much about the kids that we work with and their families that we wanted to make the right decision. I read article after article on the virus. I scoured the CDC website along with the AZDHS website to try to figure out what to do. Being both a teacher and a coach, I know that the hardest part for kids when times are tough is being idle. We wanted to, if at all possible, be the sense of normalcy in the world for the group of young athletes we work with. After literally hours of reading, we decided that we just didn't have enough information to make a decision so we canceled practices for the week.
As the week went on, I read and read and read and read. I kept up to date on the number of cases in the state along with the number of deaths caused by it. I wanted to make sure that if we opened up practices again, we did so with confidence in our decision. Ryan and I sat down and planned out how to put practices together while keeping the practice of social distancing in mind. We found new sites for practice to spread the kids out. We talked with our coaches who all agreed to try to bend over backwards to try to help the kids. We recieved e-mail after e-mail thanking us for the work that we were putting in to try to make things go and to try to keep the kids safe at the same time.
In the meantime, we created challenges on instagram to try to have some fun with the kids even if we didn't get to work with them directly. It was really fun to see players of all ages along with some RPM alumni getting involved in the challenges. The NCAA had cancelled their season and I know that many of them were incredibly upset by it.
Sunday came around and we had our plan all laid out for what the next week of practices would look like. As the day went on, we got more information. So many businesses had closed. The Governor had closed all of the schools. Information about how the virus was transmitted was released, and we just didn't feel comfortable getting the kids out. The LAST thing we wanted to do was to put kids in harm's way. We wanted so badly to give the kids the normalcy that they were looking for. We wanted so badly to be able to tell all of the parents who had e-mailed and texted and called that wanted that normalcy for their kids, that practice was a go. We just couldn't. We had to cancel practice again.
As a program and coaching staff, we have always prided ourselves on trying to connect with kids. We have always tried to earn their trust and respect. We have always wanted them to know that we were there for them and would always have their backs even in the most difficult times. We have always wanted to be their support so that they were never afraid to fail because they always knew that we would be right there to help them learn from it and continue to grow. The decision to cancel practices cut us deep. Had we failed our kids? Had we made the right choice? You hear all the time that the reason kids get through tough things in their lives is because they had that one constant positive thing to look forward to. While we realize that volleyball is just volleyball, we also had plenty of parents reaching out to us telling us that volleyball was that one positive for some of their kids right now. We were heartbroken to have to cancel on them.
We racked our brains. How do we show these kids that just because practice is not in session, it doesn't mean that we have forgotten about them, or don't care. I had heard about a school putting together a video for their kids singing the song "Lean On Me". I sent a text message out to all of the coaches asking them if they would want to be a part of something like that. Each of them responded with a resounding "YES". The clips came in from the coaches. each of them actually sang the song which was AWESOME! Unfortunately, I am not tech savy enough to get our voices in there. While I can not take credit for the idea, I hope that players and parents appreciate the message we are trying to convey with it. If you would like to watch the video, it is posted below.
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