Vidakovich column: These things I miss |

Vidakovich column: These things I miss

As the years have rolled on by, I’ve often made the comment that I like animals better than people. Though that sentiment still pretty much rings true to this day, I have come to realize during the current health crisis that surrounds us, that most all of what I value and that occupies my time, involves being around others, especially in the field of education and sports.

I served as a full time teacher, mostly at the elementary level, for the better part of 20 years. With the goal of staying connected to the local schools, I have been a substitute teacher for the last seven years. There are many challenges that present themselves as a fill-in for the regular classroom teacher, but the opportunity to get to know several great kids at all the grade levels has been a wonderful experience.

The teachers are also excellent, and they are always helpful and supportive of someone who doesn’t exactly know the ropes of the regular daily routine.

Subbing two to three days a week has pretty much been my limit since I started, but with the schools being closed this spring, I can say that I miss the positive interaction with the students and staff that has been so fulfilling to me for much of my life.

As many of you know, I am also a substitute in the area of sports writing for this newspaper. I started in the fall of 2007 when then sports editor Phil Sandoval asked me to write a preview for the annual Turkey Day 5K run. I was nervous about doing it, but it has led to many great moments covering anything from high school sports to the local running events, and even throwing in a disc golf tournament for good measure.

I’ve been introduced to sports such as volleyball, soccer and wrestling that I previously knew nothing about. It’s been fun and I was never bashful about calling coaches in advance to have them explain to me different rules of their sport, or even ask fans at a soccer game, “What just happened?”

I strike out on this one also since there are no spring sports and no exceptional athletes to watch or dedicated coaches to talk with.

Being a regular at most all of the local 5K runs, I have certainly missed getting to the starting line and competing against others, but mostly challenging myself to give it my best effort. Distance runners are probably the most unique breed of athletes I have ever come across. They are gentle, thoughtful people, who are usually as excited to hear that someone ran a good time as they are with their own performance. Handshakes and hugs are in abundance at the end of these runs and the always-asked question of what race you are thinking of tackling next will keep conversation going well into the summer morning.

No handshakes and hugs now and, of course, no races for the time being.

You might think I am a glutton for punishment by being a substitute teacher, but I also umpire adult softball games for the Glenwood Recreation Department. The occupation doesn’t come with as many hazards and verbal barbs as you may think. All the players on the Monday night coed league are friendly and respectful to me even though I have missed my share of calls and made many blunders along the way. I’m hoping that the softball league can resume sometime this summer and I can see all of these nice folks again.

I also play softball on the Tuesday night coed league in Rifle. My teammates are not only good players, they are some of the nicest humans you could ever hope to hang out with. Speaking of hanging out, I miss our team meetings over a cold one at Wingnutz following the hot action on the field. The league is slated to start up on June 2. I have my fingers crossed that it will, but I know it is up in the air at best.

With all of these cancellations of events that have kept me going through the years, I am lucky to still have running. Believe me, it’s a saving grace both mentally and physically in these times.

So, I will just keep practicing my social distancing and taking my Clorox shots each morning (It cleans the outside, right?) And if I ever meet up with a mountain lion on one of my runs above the Glenwood fish hatchery, I will pray that I get away unscathed, but all the while realizing that I am trespassing on his turf, he is not on mine.

I’ll always side with the animals.

Mike Vidakovich grew up in Glenwood Springs, is a longtime youth basketball coach and is a regular sports contributor for the Post Independent.

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