2021 Year in Review

How the return of sports brings a sense of normalcy to everyone and the benefit to the students

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[January 13, 2022]   It is really pretty simple what the return of sports does for student athletes.

It just brings joy.

For Illinois athletes, due to Covid-19, that joy ended in March of 2020.

For the Lincoln Railer Boys Basketball Team in particular, that joy ended following a sectional semifinal win at Roy S. Anderson Gymnasium on March 11, 2020. The Railers would not return to the basketball court until February 2, 2021 at Taylorville.

Even though there were no parents in the stands and very few administrators and members of the media that night in Taylorville, there were student athletes participating on the court and that brought a new level of appreciation and excitement back to sports.

“The kids are excited to be back on the court,” said Lincoln Railers Basketball Coach and LCHS Athletic Director Neil Alexander. “They have something to come to school for and work for. They are back with their friends doing the things they like to do, regardless of what sport it is they all have the opportunity to start working again and at least play some games.”

Emily Paulus, a senior on the Lady Railers Basketball Team, is grateful for the opportunity to play sports again, not just for the competition, but for the camaraderie.

“All of us on the team live a super-busy life,” said Paulus. “Without having sports for almost 12 months, that had never happened in our lives, so coming back, it was a great feeling to be back. Being with our team is like being with our family. It is our home away from home during the season. It was definitely nice to be back on the court. It was nice to have something to look forward to after school. At the beginning of the school year we would just sit at our desks for five hours and then go home, sad about not being able to practice while seeing all these other kids play.”

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It really had to be tough seeing the surrounding states allow student athletes to compete, while Illinois was still under strict regulations. Without a doubt made everyone grateful for the opportunity when the IHSA finally allowed competition with strict guidelines for each sport.

“Finally we were able to have practice and we were definitely grateful to be back,” said Paulus, noting that basketball is a six-week season. “Sports is something to look forward to during the day and something to work hard for in school.”

That excitement has a trickle effect.

“Everybody is a lot happier,” smiled Paulus, through her Lincoln Railer red and green mask. “The teachers are so happy to see that we are playing. They love seeing the athletes come to school wearing the green jumpsuits. The teachers have commented that they wish they could see us play in person, but they are happy to watch us online. The atmosphere in school is definitely a lot happier and more cheerful.”

The excitement just does not end at school. With the return of sports, there is just a vibe around the community that people are happy again, even if it is seeing the student athletes compete via the internet. Parents and grandparents know the athletes are working hard to be successful.

So whether you are an adult or a student, sports really do bring joy to everyone.

[Teena Lowery]


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