The Lopez middle and high school boys basketball team has been eagerly waiting for a year to get back on the court since COVID-19 kept them from playing last season.
Coach M.R. Buffum, who has been coaching the boys’ basketball team for 30 years, said the enthusiasm has been stronger than he’s seen before, as he’s never encountered a situation like the pandemic in all his time as a coach.
“They’ve all been showing up,” he said. “You know, I’m 64 years old. To see them so excited about the season gets me so excited too. It’s a contagious thing you know.”
Although in previous years he said sometimes team members would get burnt out coming back each season.
“Missing this last season was horrible. Our team has been behind,” Buffum remarked. “But, you know, their excitement during practice makes a big difference and keeps us going.”
Despite players’ eagerness to get back into the game, the turnout isn’t what it used to be in previous years.
“I’m up to 11 now, but I used to get maybe up to about 24 guys,” Buffum said.
To compensate, there are three eighth-graders that have been added to the team. Lopez is no stranger to struggling to have a full sports team due to the small population of the island, but the diverse age range of the team makes for unique learning opportunities with the game of basketball. Buffum, along with the players, sees the bright side of the situation.
“The younger boys get to play with the bigger boys, and you know, they might not get to play as much, but they get good practice,” he said.
Along with the eighth graders gaining the opportunity to play with older students, Buffum also said that the two seniors on the team are great leaders as well since they are packing on some extra determination with it being their last year playing high school sports after missing last season.
The team has been working hard and putting in lots of practice time leading up to their first game, Buffum said, which is scheduled for Dec. 13 against Lummi, although Athletic Director Marina Steinbrueck is trying to get a game scheduled before then. Updates on the scheduling for the first game can be found on the school athletic site at https://lopezislandsd.ss19.sharpschool.com/district_info/athletics.
With so many school sports teams able to get back in the game this season, both coaches and team members have been filled with antsiness. The Lopez middle and high school girls basketball team have been buzzing around the gym with excitement as practice for winter sports have started.
Coach Shane Patrick has been engulfed in that excitement himself. “The thing I’m looking forward to most this year is seeing the girls compete and challenge themselves at something they have not got to do in a while,” he said.
While some coaches recognized a downfall in sportsman skill, Patrick doesn’t see that as the case with his team. However, he recognizes social skills as being one of the founding components of a good team. Without it, there is no glue to hold the team together.
“I do think not really having a season negatively affects social skills they build playing a team sport,” Patrick admitted.
Despite struggles with good team communication, he recognizes this as a great learning experience coming out of the pandemic, allowing the team members to work on regaining social skills they have lost in the past year.
“The thing I’m most hopeful is to see each girl gain more confidence with themself on and off the court,” he said, looking forward to witnessing their growth and fighting back against the pandemic’s negative impacts.
Patrick has seen evidence firsthand of Lopez students missing out on the social situations they had been previously deprived of, with the turnout being extremely successful.
“We started with five girls and we are up to 14!” he exclaimed.
While Patrick is focused on the girls regaining their social skills, that is not to say they aren’t also focused on honing in on mastering their tactical basketball skills.
Their practice will pay off in their first game against Lummi on Dec. 13.
Coach Patrick is confident about the first game as he said, “Practice’s have been going well. We have spent lots of time on fundamentals and are moving forward quickly. I think this group’s ability to be aggressive and put pressure on the other team defensively is what they will hone in on.”