Addison O’Grady, left, a senior basketball and volleyball player at Aurora’s Grandview High School, joined more than 50 fellow student athletes and their parents at Creekside Park in Glendale, Dec. 17, 2020, to protest the delay in start date for the winter prep sports season as dictated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Originally scheduled to start on Jan. 4, 2021, practices for winter sports are now tentatively scheduled for Jan. 25. (Photo by Philip B. Poston/Sentinel Colorado)

Addison O’Grady needs structure.

The last eight months have been filled with anything but that, however, for the Grandview High School senior, at least when it comes to the sports she craves to play.

The rhythm and routine of the volleyball and basketball seasons give her what she needs to stay centered, so the havoc caused by the coronavirus pandemic had effects that reached farther than just the physical.

“I’m a person that needs structure in their life; having practice or games at a set time every day gets me in a good routine or schedule, but obviously nobody has been in a good routine or schedule this year,” O’Grady told the Sentinel. “Sports are important to me for that reason and it lets me forgot about schoolwork or other problems in my life. There’s a big benefit.”

For that reason, O’Grady and her mom, Mary, were part of a group of student athletes, coaches and parents that flocked to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment offices in Glendale Thursday afternoon to draw attention to the fact they feel the delay of high school sports, especially the winter season, is unwarranted given the current conditions and detriments to mental and physical health.

Last week, the Colorado High School Activities Association announced that the CDPHE denied all variances requested for the start of winter sports, which were slated to begin on Jan. 4, 2021. Now, CHSAA has proposed a Jan. 25 start, but that is dependent on the revisiting of variances, which isn’t expected until mid-January.

Prep athletes in Colorado have been on a rollercoaster ride since March and the ones that showed up at the protest and make themselves known online are calling for some steps towards normalcy. Proponents site the safe start of sports in other states — where large club tournaments are in the offing — as proof it could work here.

Mary O’Grady thought there might be more athletes and coaches at the protest, but that many are resigned to reduced seasons or losing them altogether.

“I think that this affects their moods as far as losing something that they are passionate about; there is just a sense of overall loss,” she said. “These kids have lost things and that can’t even quite put their finger on it, they just know they’ve lost it.

“I think there would have been more (at the protest), but so many have lost hope and that’s not a very good state of mind that these kids are in.”

Addison O’Grady said the protest opened her eyes to what is going on with fellow athletes who play in smaller areas in the state, such as Briggsdale and Rocky Ford. The absence of high school sports and activities have rocked some communities and have contributed to seven recent teen suicides.

“I didn’t know about the suicides in Northeast Colorado, so they brought that to my attention,” she said. “They talked a lot about now negatively this affects them. Their lives and social lives revolve around school and sports, even more than at bigger schools.”

O’Grady certainly has her own perspective on the sweeping effects COVID-19 has put on Colorado prep sports.

She was part of a Grandview girls basketball team that earned its way into the Class 5A state championship game in March, only to have the tournament canceled one day short of the title game.

The fall volleyball season she was looking forward got moved back to March and her senior basketball season will have maybe only half of the normal number of games in a usual season.

One of the other potential losses for prep athletes in the pandemic is the chance to showcase their abilities to earn a scholarship to play in college. O’Grady is grateful that no longer applies to her, as she signed her National Letter of Intent to play basketball at the University of Iowa.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

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