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Would Your Family Move To Another State To Keep Football Dreams Alive?

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Brett Kuczynski is a high school senior with a passion for football that dates back to his early childhood days.

BRETT KUCZYNSKI: Ever since then, I've loved the sport, so I really drew passion from it as soon as I started playing the game.

GREENE: But when the pandemic hit, Brett's home state of Illinois decided to cancel the entire fall football season. He didn't want to give up on his dream of playing at the college level, and so Brett and his parents decided to split up their family. Brett and his mom, Denise, moved to Florida, where they owned a vacation home, so he could transfer to a high school that still has a season. Brett's dad and his sister stayed back home in Illinois. This was no easy decision. But as Denise argues, it was the right one for their family.

DENISE KUCZYNSKI: Brett has played football since he was 5, 6 years old, and his dream is to play at the next level - at a college level. And we have just seen how much time and effort he has put into getting himself prepared physically, mentally to play at the next level. When we realized that there might be a possibility there would not be a fall season in Illinois, that's when my husband and I really started thinking, what are our other options? Let's think outside the box. How can we make this work? Because, you know, him and a lot of other children athletes have put so much time and effort to getting to this point - and to have that basically kind of taken away is a shame.

GREENE: Brett, it sounds like you felt really good about this decision. But I read that at first, you were hesitant to tell teammates and other people. I mean, what were you worried about in terms of what people might think?

B KUCZYNSKI: Well, I was definitely worried that people wouldn't really understand what went into this decision because, from my viewpoint, I think the normal person would view this move as something that's crazy and otherworldly. But the more I talked to my teammates and my friends, I think I was able to give them a better understanding of how this move would be very beneficial towards me and why it was something I really had to do. But they were all very supportive with me, and they were happy that I was pursuing my dreams.

GREENE: Do you think about teammates or other players who, you know, might not be in a position to be able to do this? I mean, you know, you have another family home. You can do it, and obviously you want to pursue your dreams. But like, there might be some kids who can't move and might not have the same opportunities for scholarships coming out of this pandemic.

B KUCZYNSKI: Yeah, for sure. There are other kids that have moved from Illinois, and I don't think that they have other homes in Indiana or Iowa - that they had to purchase residencies (ph) there. So we are very fortunate enough to own a house in Florida. Little did we know it would come in handy.

GREENE: And Denise, do you think about that? Do you reflect on families who don't have a second home and don't have the chance, you know, to keep your son's football career going?

D KUCZYNSKI: Yes. I think the COVID and the current events really has forced people to think outside the box. I think there is a lot you can do if you want to do it. I think you have to reinvent yourself. You have to really kind of think - OK, what is the best for our family and our situation? It's maybe not the right decision for most families. It was the right decision for our family.

GREENE: Well, you're in Florida, which, we should say, has had some of the highest infection numbers when it comes to the coronavirus. Does that worry you and your husband at all, that he's going to keep playing football, which you like, but it's going to be in a place that might be more vulnerable in terms of the virus than even Illinois?

D KUCZYNSKI: Yes. I think we were very concerned, obviously. One of our hesitations to making a quick decision of what we want to do, if we wanted to transfer or not, was solely based on the numbers. But looking at our county, Volusia County, we felt comfortable. Unfortunately, you know, Florida does get a bad rap that they have high numbers. But you have to also break it down to counties.

GREENE: And Brett, what is the biggest difference playing football in a pandemic? Like, what's, like, a thing that you have to do to protect yourself now on the field that you never would have done before that feels new?

B KUCZYNSKI: Well, something that's very difficult that we have to go through at practice is staying in our groups of - like, a small group. We can have the whole team there at practice, but we are divided into groups of players that we're only in contact with those players. So it's a big difference.

GREENE: As I understand it, you do have one Division I scholarship offer from Valparaiso.

B KUCZYNSKI: Correct.

GREENE: I mean, given that, did it make it tougher to decide to take this risk? I mean, since you have a DI scholarship already, like, why take the risk? Is it to get even more options?

B KUCZYNSKI: Well, I'm very blessed to have that opportunity. But I think that's very good that I have that in my back pocket so in case anything ever happens that I still have that opportunity. But I think that with my move down here, it should be able to get me more options in my future with different schools down here and really hoping that that could bring me up to the next level with this move.

GREENE: Has it been hard to be away from your dad and your sister?

B KUCZYNSKI: Yeah. It's been very difficult to have two family members that I deeply love. So - and I don't get to see them every day. But you know, we still call them every night, and we're still in contact with them. But it's very difficult not being around them or having their support every day.

GREENE: And Denise, is any part of you worried about this decision?

D KUCZYNSKI: No. I have to say, I think, you know, I told, you know, my husband and my son, this is a decision that, you know, we need to make and we need to feel comfortable. If there's any reservations or any hesitation, then we really need to talk more about it. So I think, you know, the whole family - we've talked it out so many different times, so many different scenarios that, you know, where we feel comfortable and happy with our decision. You know, Brett is fortunate enough, you know, to play fall football and have had this last few weeks, if not months, in playing the sport that he enjoys and loves.

GREENE: Well, best of luck to your whole family. And Brett, best of luck to you this season and in your football career ahead.

D KUCZYNSKI: Thank you.

B KUCZYNSKI: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

GREENE: That was Brett Kuczynski, who has transferred to a high school in Florida to keep playing football, along with his mom, Denise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.