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Stonington coach Paulla Solar: 2020 was a year of life lessons for all of us

This has been a year like none other and the changes to high school athletics is no exception. My heart goes out to all the young athletes, especially the seniors, who are sidelined by this terrible virus. Athletics are such a crucial part of the physical and mental health of these girls and to see it be taken away is another travesty of this pandemic.

Don’t get me wrong, with two daughters in the medical field, I understand that it is a necessary evil. First and foremost, we must do what we can to protect ourselves and others. How terrible I would feel if a player brought the virus home to a grandparent or I brought it home to my grandchild. But it still stings when I walk into an empty gym in the middle of December.

This is not just a fleeting couple of months. This is empty summer league courts, kids without Bears’ Summer Camp and abandoned open gym hours. These are missed opportunities for improvement of skills, forging of friendships and appreciation of healthy competition. For me, it was making tough decisions around something I’ve been passionate about for the last 28 years and not endangering myself and the people around me.

As a coach, the team becomes somewhat of a second family. This virus affects all types of families, not just the type that sit around the table at Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve had the privilege of coaching so many fantastic young women over the years, being part of those pivotal moments between adolescence and adulthood. I can’t begin to imagine being in their shoes in a time like this.

So with this pandemic comes mixed emotions. In my experience, basketball is way more than what happens on the court from November to March. It is life lessons in teamwork, leadership, sacrifice and dedication. But this is a year of life lessons, for all of us. One can only hope that we all come out stronger on the other end.

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