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Amanda Sullivan

I’m pretty sure everyone has said this at one point or another, but I’m thoroughly shocked we made it through an entire school year of sports in the Ozarks.

I wrote my first story during preseason football in August. It wasn’t for the Branson Tri-Lakes News, but I still remember thinking, “There’s just no way we’ll make it through an entire football season.”

And yet, here we are.

The baseball season just ended, the school year is over, and we’re slowly seeing the world return to normal. I’m baffled.

But I’m also incredibly thankful.

The pandemic hit me hard. I am a social person; I love interacting with people and being on the go. So when the world shut down, and I was forced to stay cooped up, I struggled a lot. I’ve always had anxiety, and the inability to do anything about it was difficult. I couldn’t go to the gym, meeting up with friends was impossible, going home to visit my family wasn’t allowed. It was hard.

I’m not telling you this out of pity. I’m telling you this because I know there are plenty of other people who have struggled with this for the last year. But when I tell you I went out to a team scrimmage at Parkview High School and loved every minute of it, I’m not lying.

I stood 6 feet away from everyone, I wore a mask in 90-degree heat, I even sanitized my hands often while I was there, but it was the best evening I’d had in a long time.

I was one of few in the journalism industry who was able to do a summer internship during the pandemic. It was the moment of a lifetime for me. I worked at The Kansas City Star for two months… Well, I guess I worked for The Star. The internship was remote which, again, took a toll on me. Most interviews were via Zoom or 6 feet apart or masked and outdoors.

I struggled because I felt like I wasn’t doing my best work at the internship of my dreams. But who wouldn’t? The world as we knew it stopped, stutter stepped and took on a whole new look. There were more people than just me struggling to get work done — let alone quality work.

But when August hit, that started to change.

High school football started. And then it kept going.

Yeah, there were cancellations and rescheduled games and last minute moves, but it happened. A full season under our belts. A full season of escape in southwest Missouri. Parents yelled at referees, coaches threw clipboards, athletes experienced elation and heartbreak. A bit of normalcy in our changed world.

And then high school basketball started. And that kept going too.

Again, games were cancelled or delayed, but even that slowed as the postseason neared.

And then baseball. And now here we are.

Now, don’t get upset that I didn’t mention the dozen or so other sports that were going on during this time. Soccer, tennis, golf, wrestling, softball, track, the list goes on and on.

What I’m saying is: Sports happened. And I couldn’t be more thankful.

Covering sports in southwest Missouri has been a great experience since I started in August. Being in the Tri-Lakes area since November has been an even better experience.

I’ve gotten to know coaches, athletic directors, athletes, parents. I’ve gotten to cover elation and heartbreak. I’ve gotten to do the job that I love.

It’s still been tough. There are certainly days when I feel like I haven’t done my job well enough. The occasional hurtful email still hits a little too close to home. But I still love my job. (I don’t love being called ma’am, but I appreciate the sentiment.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’ve loved the last year. Thank you to anyone and everyone who has talked to me: Jimmy Lincoln and Bug Bailey for being my first interviews, Austin Kendrick for always chatting with me even if the outcome wasn’t what he wanted, Cole Jones for always calling me ma’am, the Pirates track team for always saying thank you for covering them, the Forsyth coaches for squeezing me in on busy days, Ken Elfrink for being the first person I met, and to all the others who haven’t been mentioned yet. Thank you.

I’m not going anywhere this summer. My coverage will obviously be limited, but I’ll still be around. As always, if you see me, feel free to stop me, say hey, and chat about sports. I can’t wait for another school year in the Ozarks.

Happy summer everyone. Let’s do this.

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