KIMT NEWS 3 SPORTS – Years from now, the Clear Lake Lions won’t necessarily recall the wins and losses from this season, but they will remember all of the memories they made along the way. The 2020-21 season provided a journey the Lions could never have imagined.
“It’s been a long season, it’s been a grueling season,” said Head Coach, Bart Smith. “We’re really not taking anything for granted and playing with an attitude like this could be it because there for a while, it looked like we were going to be done.”
Coaches like Smith train their players to adapt and rise above any challenges that might be thrown their way. For senior Chelsey Holck, the challenges seemed never-ending.
“Adversity has kind of been our thing this year,” she said. “We got over COVID, we got over four seniors being hurt at the beginning of the season so anything you throw at us, I think we can overcome it.”
Time and time again, Coach Smith’s 12-year-old stepson, Beckett, has been the team’s source for inspiration. At a young age, he began showing a variety of developmental delays and is confined to a wheelchair.
His health took a turn for the worse in September and he is now in hospice care. Doctors have struggled to determine an official diagnosis.
“If you think you have it rough, you just look at him and you kind of reevaluate – kind of don’t sweat the small things and kind of relish in the day,” Smith said.
Throughout the season, Beckett’s illness required Coach Smith to step away from the sideline and make trips to Saint Marys in Rochester. Even during his absences, the team found ways to persevere and win basketball games.
“Our team and our coaching staff have done a great job of leading the girls when I’m gone,” he said. “The seniors have done a great job of stepping in and being leaders.”
The team wouldn’t have it any other way than to see the infectious smile of their ‘little brother’ back at practices, healthy.
“A lot of us girls have grown really close to him and he just means a lot to us,” Holck said.
“All that stuff that went on throughout the yeat has just really made this group closer and one big family,” Smith added.
Coach Smith also wanted to extend a special thank you to the Mayo Clinic doctors and nurses, saying they have become like family and helped make this process easier.
The Lions closed out their season in Thursday’s Class 3A state semifinal. Kaitlyn VanderPloeg led the Lions with 12 points, Jaden Ainley added 10, Darby Dodd scored 9 points and Emily Theiss had 8. Clear Lake finished the season with a 19-2 record.