BOZEMAN — Normally around spring time at the Belgrade and Bozeman high schools there would be sounds of sports: the crack of a bat during softball games or the sound of a tennis racket meeting a tennis ball. However, COVID-19 has robbed us from the pleasure of the activities we once enjoyed the most. Now, schools are banding together to provide a light when all seems dark.
“I just went for a walk outside and it’s beautiful and it really made me wish that I was at track meet or softball or tennis or something, there’s no doubt about it,” said Bozeman athletic director Mark Ator.
Sports are dearly missed. The "Turn on the Lights" initiative is spreading to a few states across the country as schools are turning on their stadium lights on Friday nights to provide a ray of light during these dark times.
"The main focus of it is to just let the students and everybody know that they're in our thoughts,” said Belgrade athletic director Rick Phillips.
Sports, since their inception, have brought people together. "Turn on the Lights" is way to show support for social distancing but also that one day we will be watching and participating in sports again soon.
“Sports are the unifier in more times than not," Phillips said. "To have that opportunity to turn on the lights and say, 'Hey, people, remember the times we were all together?' Let’s remember that opportunity is just around the corner.”
For Phillips, providing a symbol of hope to his community and all Montanans is special.
“I’ll tell you what, the feeling that I got walking out there to go turn them on, it brings tears to your eyes," Phillips said. "Just the thought of what you’re doing that's something meaningful as you stroll out there to flip the lights on and just say, 'You know, this is a pretty symbolic thing that we are doing.'”
Checking out the stadium lights on Friday nights is encouraged but remember to social distance.
“We still got to remember our social distancing right now," Ator said. "Our football lights are on right now as a reminder that if we follow social distancing, that we will have football in the fall."