These shoes tell a story. They tell a story of hope, delays and heartache.

After missing her last basketball season all together due to COVID, Hallie was excited to have another chance to play this year for the high school. She had a 7th period devoted to getting in shape and she attended open gyms two times a week for the whole semester. They delayed the season by a couple weeks but she was ready to play. Just before the season was starting we went to the store to get some new basketball shoes. She landed on these shoes that perfectly matched her uniform.

The first day of practice she broke her finger. That was a hard pill to swallow. She had worked so hard and she literally made it to one practice before having to take a break. She nursed that finger and did everything she could to come back strong. The day she was supposed to come back from her injury, practice got cancelled. The next day, the AIA (state high school athletics) postponed the start of games which meant her coach didn’t think they needed to practice the week before Christmas so he let them have a break. After Christmas, she made it to a couple practices before having to quarantine. This last Saturday was going to be her first practice back, lace up these shoes again.

Instead, Hallie got word on Friday that her basketball season – that had been delayed twice already – was going to be cancelled. The AIA voted to cancel all winter sports – for the whole state of Arizona. I don’t think anyone even knew they were planning on voting on this – especially because they said they would never shut sports down again (like last year) unless there was a government mandated shutdown. Hallie was blindsided. So much time and energy was put into getting ready for her previous season that ended up being cancelled. This time she had doubled, if not tripled her efforts. Her coach shared with us just a week ago how we admired her as a leader on the team. And then it was over. Friday the announcement was made and by Saturday morning the school was collecting all the jerseys. And these shoes just sat, nearly brand new, on the kitchen counter, eventually making their way to the stairs waiting to be taken up to her room.

She’s still trying to process it – we both are. These girls knew going into this season that it was going to be different. They agreed to very strict protocols. They agreed to absolutely no spectators. They agreed to a shorter season. They agreed to all of it. And then it was gone. Their season was postponed for safety reasons while football playoffs with spectators continued on. Their season is cancelled but she can turn around and show up to her spring sport conditioning/practice Monday after school. Seriously?! It makes no sense.

I fear for programs like girls basketball to survive this pandemic. In a school as large as ours, they should have no problem fielding a girl’s basketball team and yet they did. We were informed a week ago that four high schools in our league didn’t have enough girls so they just don’t have a freshman team. Out of almost a thousand freshman – they couldn’t find 8-10 girls willing to play. Because they didn’t play last year. So unless it’s your dream to play, chances are you’re not going to skip out on two years and then come back again. And now you have girls who have missed two years of junior high basketball which can be a girls first exposure to a sport like basketball (it was for Hallie) which means the program is going to suffer. Who is going to show up next year for the freshman team?!

Boys basketball may pull through okay but we’ve already seen how this has effected the girl’s program. It’s not good. Soccer and wrestling are still practicing and are looking to alternate options for a season. But girls basketball was quick to throw in the towel – perhaps a little harder logistically to figure out an alternate season.

In my heart, I’m still holding a sliver of hope (yes for Hallie, but really for all those seniors looking for their last shot). There has been some heated discussions the last couple days and I don’t think the AIA can walk away from all those demanding evidence for their decisions – perhaps it’s not over. And if it is, you move on. In Hallie’s case, she’ll move on to tennis tomorrow and her time and attention will be focused on a different court.

As for these shoes – they may never feel the warmth of her feet again – but they will always be a reminder of the season that never came to be. Unfortunately, they tell a story of disappointment – a lesson that no one seems to escape.