Hello, July. Happy to see you!

I’m typically not one to wish time away, but I think it’s safe to say that the first half of 2020 has been one of the most tumultuous periods in our history. Certainly in my lifetime.

And though 2020’s been an emotional roller coaster, I’m happy that we’re starting the second half.

I’ve also never been one to make encompassing statements, especially about how bad things are, because a half-century worth of life’s experiences tells me things could always be worse. But hopefully the worst is now behind us and things will continually improve as we roll toward 2021.

One thing that living during a pandemic has done is given me a healthy dose of perspective.

I wholeheartedly believe that I’m not alone in feeling that life without sports, while understandable, has been difficult.

And most of the time, quite honestly, it’s been a little boring.

My perspective on sports has changed a bit though, through the pandemic and the ongoing social unrest in our country.

The sports world has always played an important role in my life, if for nothing more than entertainment purposes, but I’ve truly struggled to find significance of late. Probably not a good situation for a sports writer to be in, but it’s helped me search for relevance.

Finding importance wasn’t difficult. And the meaning of sports to me obviously runs much deeper than it being my livelihood as a sports writer. Selfishly though, I think that’s kind of important too.

Over the past few weeks we’ve learned more and more about what restarting the sports world will be like.

With each of those messages and plans that have been shared, my excitement for it continues to grow ever so slightly.

I’ve tried to maintain cautious optimism throughout the process of plans being put in place, but the battle between it and pessimism is real.

Like at most games I attend, I will be an interested observer to see how everything plays out while also internally rooting for the best possible outcome for all involved.

High school kids can return to their respective campuses across the state for the first time since March on Monday. A huge step indeed, as the scholastic fall sports season begins in earnest in just over a month.

Monday begins the first phase of three and runs through July 19. Athletes will be permitted 15 hours on school sanctioned activities per week and only one conditioning workout session per day no matter the sport.

Athletes will be allowed to train together in the weight room at 50 percent capacity. Zero or limited physical contact is advised. Simply put, the emphasis for the first two weeks of training will be on conditioning and skill development.

Phase two, which runs from July 20 through Aug. 2, will allow an increase in size and intensity of workouts which leads into the official beginning of fall sports on Aug. 3.

Girls golf can start official practice on July 31 and competition on Aug. 3. All other teams start practice Aug. 3 and can compete beginning on Aug. 15.

Just typing that last sentence helped the excitement inside of me grow a little bit more.

Athletic departments will use an observational/self-reported screening process, which includes temperature screenings – daily – to look for signs of COVID-19 in student athletes prior to any participation in any activity.

Marion High School for one, has mandated that all coaches, medical-related staff, supervisors and directors will be required to wear face coverings unless said personnel is engaged in vigorous activity or it poses a health risk. Period!

A mask will be optional for students, but each must bring their own water bottle and towel and no sharing of either should take place.

No locker rooms will be available for phase one, however restrooms will be open and sanitized after each workout session.

The plan is sensible and set.

Will it work?

We will know in a couple of weeks.

I’m no scientist, but I do believe in science. A common sense and cleanly approach to daily life seems to be the best way to currently deal with COVID.

The recent upward spike in cases in different areas around the country has fed that pessimistic tone inside my head. As has the abject refusal by some of the citizens in our society to make a small sacrifice by wearing a mask.

While a mask might not prevent the virus from being spread, it does reduce the chances of transmission.

Wearing a mask in public isn’t an infringement on personal freedom, it’s a common courtesy to your neighbors, your friends, quite possibly to our kids and our future.

Freedom is being able to sit in the stands under Friday night lights. Hopefully that will happen on Aug. 21 inside Jeff Adamson Stadium when Marion and Eastbrook are scheduled to open the 2020 high school football season.

Only keeping COVID at bay will help us reach that destination.

Time will tell, in short order, if we get that opportunity.

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