On the Matt: Senior night

Published 1:49 pm Friday, November 4, 2022

This past Friday, George Rogers Clark High School celebrated Senior Night with 33 football players, cheerleaders, and band members recognized on the field.

Put together largely with help from the GRC Football Boosters Club, Athletic Director Mike Ritchie said something quite poignant.

“They’re [going to] remember all the stuff that was fun to them and the atmosphere,” he said. “Then when they come in…they’re going to instantly miss it. Just being an athlete before or a band member…if you’ve done it before, you’re going to always miss it no matter how old you get.”

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Speaking from experience, I tend to agree.

It’s interesting, though. Between 14 and 18 years old, I didn’t always feel that way.

I’ve mentioned before that I was a high school football player in Illinois at a school that was a powerhouse for the sport.

There was a lot of joy.

However, there was also a lot of pressure; pressure which my teammates and I didn’t always enjoy.

Hoping to win, we sometimes might have tried to do too much and made the play more challenging than it needed to be.

Then, you feel like the entire world is watching you in every play.

However, age brings wisdom.

Being several states away, I don’t get to see or even talk to many of my old teammates often, though several of us have stayed connected through social media.

Yet, I can honestly say that as opposed to scores of particular games or plays that we ran in certain situations, it’s the moments and bonds we shared – often times away from the game – that I think of, cherish, and miss the most.

Also, there’s a different way of looking at it.

A.J. Cook, band teacher at GRC, reflected on what this core of seniors has gone through.

“The band students that we have now have went through the COVID year, and have been part of the group that’s really helped the tradition of the band live and be strong”, he said. “I’m just so…Proud of them for everything that they’ve done so far.”

Every class, or generation, seems to have something that makes them unique.

For this group, it’s one of the few classes to see what high school was like pre- and post-COVID.

For my class, we were the first to enter post-Sept. 11th, and – I’m happy to say – are the only class in over 100 years to graduate with the Chicago White Sox as defending World Series champions (I’m a Sox fan!).

Certainly not least of all, Senior Night is a time to remember all those who helped get you to where you’re at because, unfortunately, not all of them will be there down the line.

I can recall my uncle being close enough to attend my graduation and my last high school football game. I thought about this when we laid him to rest in July 2021.

I’ll recall the pregame of Senior Night when Mr. K., the beloved public address announcer, paid close attention to make sure he pronounced my last name correctly. I remembered it fondly upon hearing of his passing in November 2020.

Even one of my coaches, who cracked a joke that night, is sadly no longer with us.

In closing, while Senior Night is an opportunity to celebrate and remember, experiences will be thought of differently in years to come.