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Bird Brown: Back to some old habits, which is a good thing | COMMENTARY

One of the last columns I wrote last year before we were shut down for the ‘rona talked about how being able to take a short break from life, from sports, may not all be a bad thing.

I talked about the projects we were able to start — and finish ― around the house. We did some bush removal, grass replacement, and many other landscaping projects. We painted, de-cluttered, and even renovated a bathroom (well, our friend did; we just helped with demolition and removal).

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Well, now that spring has sprung, we have already started “‘Rona Projects 2.0.”

I wrote of a new walking regimen I had started with my son, which continued throughout the summer and fall until colder temperatures sent this old softy inside to hibernate and reinstall those pounds I had shed with all of that exercise and self-focus. My dogs are not too happy about the diminished exercise, which included ball throwing and golf course walks, so they will be sure that before long those habits are reinstalled and we’re on the road to good health.

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The sites of the local ball fields laying barren in the spring and summer, no sounds of the cracking of a bat, no chatter of a lacrosse practice, no kids running through drills and skills, and no parents scrambling to get their kids to practice on time made for an apocalyptic scene, one like nothing I’ve ever witnessed in my near six decades on Mother Earth.

What it did bring was much needed silence. The fields fell silent with nobody on them, but it gave them a chance to breathe, to reconnect their roots, and to grow stronger in anticipation of when the mayhem returns. The patchy spots started to grow grass for the first time in years. The lines that are run over year after year were not there this year so grass started to sprout over years of spray paint or lime, making it almost unrecognizable as a sports field.

The unhealthy communication often exchanged between a parent and a young athlete on the way to and from games and practices, and sometimes even during the competition when the child doesn’t live up to the parents’ expectations, took a much-needed break. Parents and kids had to find other things with which to connect and other ways to communicate that hopefully will continue when things get back to “normal.”

Referees were able to get their hearing checked to make sure that the voices they were hearing in their heads weren’t coming from a coach on the sideline or even worse, a parent in the stands, and the reduction in their blood pressure levels from not taking the constant abuse I’m sure was a welcome influence to the daily reduction of stress in their lives.

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Two of my referee friends even called it quits and moved to Florida and Texas!

Then as fall hit, it seemed to be like spring had sprung, only a little later in the year. Little daffodils and jonquils peeking through the dirt became little soccer and lacrosse players popping up on the few fields that weren’t shut down. Despite all high school sports and many area recreation sports being shut down due to fears of spreading the ‘rona, club sports took the initiative and held fall seasons with all of us club coaches and managers scrambling to get registered and carded months before we normally would as most of us take the fall off to focus on high school soccer.

In its absence, we had no choice.

Then slowly, things started to come back. Winter sports went on at the high school level and although there were cases throughout the county, the CCPS nurses, athletic directors, coaches, and players all worked diligently to get through and complete a modified, yet much needed, season of sports.

We’re halfway through the “Faux Fall 2020” season and with a few bumps in the road we’re progressing toward the end. Spring season is now less than a month away.

Westminster boys soccer head coach Robert Brown on the sidelines during a game against Liberty at Westminster High School on Tuesday, March 9, 2021.
Westminster boys soccer head coach Robert Brown on the sidelines during a game against Liberty at Westminster High School on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. (Brian Krista)

I can’t tell you how it feels after all of these months to be back on the field with my boys and my coaching colleagues across the county participating in high school athletics. The athletes play the game with a pent-up passion that comes from being told you can’t for so long. Coaches miss the interaction with our colleagues and we’re back to sharing game information and personal stories of triumph from our players.

After having three major “showcase” tournaments canceled at the end of the year last year, this weekend my club team is back on the field for Baltimore Mania, hoping to catch the eye or two of the few collegiate coaches that are willing to come recruit from the sidelines.

Deepak Chopra once wrote, “Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”

My question is, how long before we go back to the same ways that we were happy to take a break from during the lockdown? How long before the grass begins to show the signs of wear and tear from our already overused sports facilities (turf fields anyone)? When will that line of communication between parent and children fall back in to the same ugly habits we had pre-COVID? And when will the referees be back in the position to take the heat from coaches and parents alike?

Well for me, it didn’t take long in my first game back with Jim, or Bill, or whatever his name was.

The struggle is real.

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