One of the toughest things about sports is when a player moves on. Regardless of whether or not the player decides to retire, sign with another team or is traded, more often than not, it leaves fans wondering what’s next.
That’s how I feel at the end of each sports year. How will the graduating player be replaced? Who is going to step up and take charge now that the current seniors have graduated? What is the program going to look like next year?
Graduation is a special time, but for me, it’s bittersweet because so many quality young men and women are going on to start their lives. However, that means I will no longer get to interview them or watch them play. And believe it or not, I grow fond of the teams that I cover and enjoy my time around them.
That being said, here are some players who, as I sit and write this, I wonder, “How will they be replaced?”
The first person who comes to mind is Ryan Kraft. I remember when he was a freshman, Bret Harte head football coach Casey Kester told me during summer practices, “I’ve got a freshman quarterback who could start on the varsity right now,” referring to Kraft. Well, Ryan Kraft was as good as advertised. He set so many records on the football field and was truly a joy to watch play. He’s going to be a difficult player to replace.
Also at Bret Harte, there’s Bri Simpson. Bri played volleyball and basketball and by the end of her senior year, was one of the most dominating volleyball players in the league. At 6-feet tall, she’s going to be tough to replace. But I also think it’s going to be hard to replace the joy she showed while playing. It was always fun to watch Bri, because when she was happy, she didn’t try and hide it. And it’ll be weird not hearing, “That’s my best friend,” anytime Hannah Marinics does something on the court.
At Calaveras, my first thought goes right to the softball team. Bri Head, Alanda Cardon, Alexis Dawe and Jordyn Okumura are all four-year varsity players who will be gone next year. I remember when I first started covering Calaveras softball full-time, they were all freshmen. Watching them play that first year, I just figured that the program would be a machine for the next three years and I was right. But having to replace those four players is going to be a tough task and I’m glad that I’m not coach Mike Koepp and I don’t have to come up with a solution.
It’s going to be hard to replace Calaveras’ Andrew Wydner. The thing about Wydner is he didn’t get to play at all during his senior year. A summer knee injury left him on the shelf, but that didn’t stop him from hanging around the teams he would have played on. He was with the cross country runners, the soccer team and the track team. I would talk to him at those events and he was always so positive and, even though he couldn’t perform, he still wanted to help in any way he could. His favorite thing was taken away from him, and yet he continued to surround himself with the things and people that he loved. It’s going to be hard to replace someone like that.
Those are just a few of the athletes that I’m going to miss covering, but trust me, the list is much longer. It’s kids like these who make my job fun. I get to talk to young men and women after they win games and are flying high. But, I also talk to them after tough losses, when the last thing they want to do is describe their feelings. Yet, they all do it and show their maturity and intelligence in the process.
Congratulations to everyone in the Class of 2019 and I wish you nothing but the best. There are times when I see what is going on in the world and I worry. And yet, I know that the world is getting a great crop of adults who are going to do great things and hopefully change the world for the better.
Now, it’s up to the junior class to replace those who are now gone. It’s up to them to pick up the ball and run with it. It’s up to them to continue the tradition of excellence that has been passed down from class to class.
That’s what’s next.