My name is Tyler Bredehoeft and I am the Head Men’s Basketball Coach at Rock Valley College, a NJCAA program in Illinois. What a 12+ months it has been… In March of 2020, we were told to go home and isolate as we were going into a shutdown. Fast forward to mid-April of 2021, we are working towards what use to be normalcy. As COVID-19 has run its course, many people have faced financial hardships, mental struggles and fatigue, and the inevitable physical hardships dealing with the virus itself. No person, athletic program, or business was prepared for what was to come of 2020. I want to share my perspective on what it is like dealing with a cancelled season, as well as some takeaways from the experience.
We returned to campus in limited capacity in August 2020. At that time, we were hopeful that we would have a season starting in the fall and finishing in the spring. We knew we had a ways to go for that to be possible but we were hopeful. After five months of being off campus and working with our athletes remotely and via Zoom, we were excited. Even the smallest inconvenience of masks, temperature checks, COVID-19 logs, testing, etc. were welcomed if it meant we were able to compete on the court and be with our teams. Practices were different. We avoided contact drills when possible, took alternating water breaks, eliminated close huddles, but none of that mattered as we had some normalcy back in our lives. New and exciting only last for so long before you realize it is not quite what it was before. As our excitement wore off and the reigns stayed tightened, fatigue and stress set in. We constantly had changing schedules due to new CDC protocols, institution procedures, virus exposure/contact tracing, and more. After a while, the constant inconsistency starts to take a toll on the mind and effort is directly affected. Regardless, we love the game; we were still hopeful for a season and we held on to that.
As we fast forward to December, we saw the numbers rising and institutions across the country shutting down and canceling sports. Rumors and talks of canceling our season begin to develop. As a coach, I was to the point of exhaustion due to the constant indecision of playing or not playing. A decision one way or the other would allow proper preparation moving forward and help foster for a more consistent routine. We were in a helpless situation playing the waiting game for news to break. Then the news hit… Our season was cancelled before Christmas. Although it was tough to take and disappointing for our team and what could have been, there was some relief. No more changing the daily or weekly schedule every night. No more worrying about how we will travel, play games, have effective practices to prepare, eat meals on the road, pay for testing and everything else that goes with a season in a pandemic. Once our season was cancelled, we could focus on moving forward without the stress of the unknown. In the best interest of our athletes, we allowed several mid-season transfers so that they could play at schools that were having a season. We turned our focus to academics and shoring up our academic eligibility for athletes moving into the spring semester, as well as the 2021-22 season.
Here we are… We have not played a game in over a year. What are my takeaways from this experience? I have always believed to enjoy what you do today; nothing is ever guaranteed. This year only confirms that. I have learned to enjoy the small victories a little bit more each day. As bad as you think you have it, others have it worse. Many times, I was complaining about our situation but with talking to other coaches, we were not alone and we did not have it the worst. Building resiliency was a big part of growth this year with our team, as well as myself. No matter how bad one day was or one thing is, the world keeps spinning and you have to keep moving forward. Lastly, take a disadvantage and turn it into an advantage. We were shut down for a while and not able to have season but I used that time to find more balance with my personal and professional life. Finding things to do that do not revolve around basketball was a great way for me to disconnect from the helpless feeling of having our season canceled.
As of right now, we have three exhibitions scheduled this coming week. Our players and our staff could not be more excited; however, we know that things can change quickly as we have experienced far too often over the last year. We have been able to get a lot out of each day as we have learned that opportunities can be taken away at any moment. Everyone in athletics this year had to handle large amounts of adversity and inconsistency. We are all better for it and will be stronger because of the trials and tribulations this pandemic has provided. Keep your head up and keep moving forward. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Coaching is still incredible.
Tyler Bredehoeft is a college coach and clinician with Midwest Elite Basketball. To have coaches such as Coach Bredehoeft come to your gym this summer to work with your program, check out out Satellite Camps.