The region’s basketball teams face the new reality | Sports

There is an unfortunate new reality for basketball teams in northern New Mexico at the start of 2022. That reality is life with COVID. We are only two weeks away from the start of 2022 and programs across the region have been forced to postpone or even cancel games due to cases of COVID-19 within the program. This has brought a new set of challenges for players and coaches, dealing not only with the physical side of things, but also with the mental and emotional side that the ongoing pandemic brings. It’s hard enough to compete and win at a high level, and now regional and state teams have a new challenge ahead of them, navigating this new reality.

“After everything that happened last year, this season has been even tougher,” Pecos girls head coach Bryan Gonzales said. “This season has just been tough enough, tough enough.”

It’s not just about basketball, and maybe Bryan Gonzales knows that better than anyone. His Lady Panthers team in Pecos has been hit as hard as anyone this season. In mid-December, they had to cancel games because of the situation within their team, and had to start again this week, canceling their games this Thursday and next Monday. The Lady Panthers aren’t the only team feeling the effects, even the NMHU Cowboys and Cowgirls basketball team had their games at the Colorado School of Mines canceled last weekend in Golden due to COVID protocols. . This is something that has been difficult, if not impossible, to avoid.

“It’s to the point where we really feel for these kids,” Gonzales said. “Because if they don’t test positive they’re exposed, they’re their friends and what’s kind of sad is that it becomes a common thing in their lives and it’s not normal and it doesn’t should not happen.”

Schools across the city of Las Vegas are also feeling the effects, moving to remote learning for this week and in turn putting their boys’ and girls’ basketball teams on hiatus until Monday, January 17. This is all done in an effort to keep the kids safe, and coaches realize it’s more important than wins and losses on the field. Knowing that doesn’t make this time any easier for coaches, players and administrators to navigate. Managers are simply trying to do what is best for children, but there is no way to avoid the physical, mental and emotional toll this takes on children. As fans or anyone outside of the program, we can see the physical toll this can take on the ground just by watching the teams play, but coaches and those on these programs need to see and deal with the emotional toll this constantly changing situation brings. on children.

“I understand that the safety of our children is paramount to anything else,” said RHS boys’ basketball head coach James Branch. “It’s tough because I finally got everyone back and started clicking and getting ready for the district.”

Many of these teams have championship aspirations. The Lady Cardinals reached the state championship game last season and, currently sitting at 14-1, look set to return. The Lady Panthers are the defending 2A state champions and have improved with each passing game, but have barely been able to get their full roster of players on the field in recent weeks. The Cardinals men’s team is currently on a four-game winning streak, and head coach James Branch has been clear on his goals for this group, a blue trophy. However, the Cardinals now have their last two out-of-district games and their first district contest canceled due to COVID. It is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for coaches and players to focus on their goals on the pitch. Instead, the goal is simply to get back on the floor to play games again.

“The main thing I preach to the girls is to stay healthy, we have to stay healthy,” said RHS women’s basketball head coach Jose Medina. “When we come back next week, hopefully we can get back there and keep working hard and improving.”

For statewide programs that have been forced to pause, the goals are no longer wins and championships. That’s changed, it’s now about making sure everyone is safe, everyone is in good shape mentally and emotionally and making sure they can get everyone back to playing. One thing all the coaches have said is that they just have to take it day by day. This new reality is unfortunate, but it’s what everyone is facing and it’s another hurdle for these teams to overcome in what is becoming an increasingly difficult season.