By John Smithson
Last month, just as the various spring sports were getting underway at North Myrtle Beach High School, the seasons just as quickly ended. South Carolina schools closed in mid-March and besides parents and kids going to virtual classrooms for learning, thousands of student athletes statewide learned their sport and games and matches were placed on hold.
Baseball, soccer, track, softball, tennis, lacrosse and golf might have a video game equivalent but for high school coaches and players, the end of their sport schedule meant no practice, no games and not even the thrill of winning or the agony of defeat. Now that South Carolina schools are closed for the remainder of the semester, the players and coaches face the reality of never getting together as a team and competing with and against others.
What follows on our sports pages is just a part of the story. The reactions and thoughts of the coaches that you will read are an attempt by them to frame their disappointment with hope, their love of sports with the effects this virus has had on their team, their players and their community. As readers we understand their stories because we are feeling some of the same things in our homes and in our families. We also are trying to cope with the loss of what was once “normal” as we deal with this virus, sometimes in sad or tragic ways.
Girls soccer coach Kelsey Winkler talks about the virus and her team.
“The virus has certainly taken a toll on my family and I. My husband and I decided back when they closed school that we were going to completely isolate and stick to our house as much as we could. We decided to not even visit immediate family like my parents or in-laws. That part has certainly been the hardest, since we have a toddler who loves her grandparents and misses them daily. It also has been a struggle to continue to teach virtually and take care of our daughter, who is at the age where she wants a lot of attention from mom and dad all day long. I am constantly torn between spending time with her and trying to lock myself in a room to get some work done.
I, however, consider my family very blessed at this time though. My husband and I are still able to do our jobs from home while many families out there are really struggling. So, overall, I consider myself lucky and have no reason to complain whatsoever.
I can remember when we got news of North Carolina postponing their spring sports seasons. I knew deep down it was just a matter of days before South Carolina would follow suit. At the top of my concerns and thoughts were my six seniors. I couldn’t help but think that they may never get a chance to play for the last time on their home field, walk with their parents out on the field for senior night or hear their name over the loudspeaker on game night.
This group of ladies I had this year had so much talent. We have been training since last summer. We were both physically and mentally ready to take on the top teams in our region. My girls knew of the high expectations I had for them.
When we had to stop training together, it didn’t mean we had to stop training apart. My coaching staff and I sent out weekly training plans for the team, things they could do on their own at home, so that if we did come back and play, they would be fit and ready to go,” Winkler wrote last week.
Winkler also posted additional comments on Facebook about her team’s season and her six seniors.
“It is difficult to be a senior in high school and not be able to play your senior soccer season. I am super proud of the way you are handling it and continue to push on and be role models for the rest of your team. This was an event that no one saw coming and you are all handling it really well. You are such a talented group of seniors and we had such big things planned for you and are sorry that we never got to show what we are really made of.
Even though the season was cut short, your legacy will live on in our program for years to come. The underclassmen will continue to look up to you and strive to be the type of players and people that you were. You pushed through your limits, you led the team, you conquered goals and made history at North Myrtle Beach High School. You are all winners no matter what. The soccer program is at a better place and will continue to be at a better place just because of the impact you had on our soccer program.
You are missed, loved and you are North Myrtle Beach soccer. Once a Chief, always a Chief. Now a few words about each of the seniors.
Emma Delaney. Emma was a positive role model for us this year. No matter what the circumstances were, winning or losing, there was always something that Emma had to say that was always super positive. She could always push her teammates in the best way possible. She couldn’t criticize. She just would be the type of role model that the underclassmen wanted to be. She always put in extra work, stay after practice or have extra practice, even practice on weekends. She always wanted to be the best version of herself and improve her own abilities for the betterment of the team. I was lucky to have you and your hard work and dedication certainly have paid off. Emma will be attending the College of Charleston (Air National Guard) and majoring in psychology.
The world is not ready for a Janya. She’s got big plans for the future and I will miss her but know she makes the world a better place. She continues to be one of my favorite people. She is wise beyond her years and has some of the best stories and is one of the funniest girls I’ve ever met. She puts a smile on anybody’s face in a matter of minutes. She is so funny and so smart and talented. I could always count on her up top to blow past defenders, catching them off guard with her lightning-fast speed. She plans to attend the University of South Carolina and study pre-med.
She is one of the best people I have ever met. I have watched her grow and blossom into a fabulous young lady. She is sweet, funny and so athletic, plays three sports and one of the top scorers in all three sports and somehow manages to make perfect grades. She also is one of our top scorers and a true team player. Now it’s time for her to spread her wings and radiate her greatness elsewhere. Jenna plans on attending Charleston Southern and major in nursing.
She has one of the best personalities I’ve seen in a high school player. She is able to hold intellectual conversations beyond my years. Her jokes and sense of humor keep coaches and players laughing. She is one of the best people to be around. She has always been a solid player from JV to varsity level and continues to amaze me with her skills and abilities in all aspects of life. On a whim we decided to move her from a back player to outside wing because of her aggressiveness and speed. She is an unstoppable player and a beast in the best way. She plans to attend the University of Pennsylvania and major in English.
She is one of the most fun-loving, energetic and athletic girls I have ever met. I have known both Berger girls for many years. She is a great athlete, at the top of her class and is still able to maintain great grades while still being the best in all three sports she plays. She always puts the team before herself. It’s always about the team aspect. She always pushes past any physical limits and it is never about herself. It’s now her time to shine and go conquer the world. Jordan is attending Charleston Southern and majoring in education.
She keeps the team laughing with her out-of-the-box personality. We could always count on Catherine to be a solid defensive back player for us. She would do such a great job instructing her back line and being one of the loudest in one of the best ways possible on the field. She is a solid all-around high school girl, friends with everybody and a great athlete. She makes you smile when she is around you and I have enjoyed watching her grow and blossom into the young lady she is today. She plans to attend the University of South Carolina and major in criminology,” Winkler posted last week.