Dear Fall Athletes

Logan Wiland, writer of this article, playing football. Photo courtesy of Logan Wiland.

Dear Fall Athletes, 

The year 2020 will go down as one of the craziest years, not only in American history, but in global history. I rang in the new year optimistic that it was going to be the best one yet. Full of hope and promise. Slowly, roadblock after roadblock began to arise, disrupting everything from my personal life, to the world on a global level. Mass scale shutdowns, masks becoming a necessity, a social justice movement, losing Kobe, a major political divide during an election year and the fear of murder hornets. 

A couple months into the year, social media became flooded with talk of COVID-19. I had no idea what people were talking about at first. I soon found out it was a virus affecting primarily foreign countries. My instant response was to brush it off, just like I did when talk of Ebola had been swirling in the past. I was complacent enough to believe it wasn’t going to affect the United States, let alone myself. I was sadly mistaken. 

One day in March, I was at lacrosse practice and rumors began to circulate about other schools cancelling their seasons and switching to online classes. At this point, I was aware of the fact that COVID-19 was a real issue in our world, yet I was still complacent in thinking it wouldn’t affect Seton Hill. A few days went by, more and more schools were cancelling seasons and going online. The fate of our season seemed inevitable. Sure enough, at the end of practice one day Coach Novotny informed the team of the heartbreaking news. Our season was coming to an early end.

Not having the opportunity to fight for a shot at a National Championship with the lacrosse team last spring cut deep. As those wounds were healing this summer, I shifted my focus to preparing for my senior season of football. The sadness and frustration I felt when I heard fall sports were going to be cancelled as well was devastating. My whole demeanor changed and I was left feeling sort of lost. What comes next? Where do we go from here? Will we ever be able to play sports again?

In the midst of all this craziness, athletes around the world have been forced to take a step back from their busy schedules and put their athletic careers on hold. Sports on every level, from youth to pro, had been shut down for the first time in history. For some, this only means taking a short break to come back better than ever, hopefully this upcoming spring. For others, there is a different reality.

Unfortunately, there are those out there who will never compete doing what they love again. My heart breaks for those athletes as no one deserves to have their final season taken away. 

My advice for people in this situation is to use this as a time to reflect and cherish, not mourn. Reflect on everything your sport has done for you in your life. Sports are so much more than just a game. Everything from meeting teammates turned family, to learning lessons you will carry for a lifetime and everything in between. I know I’ve made some of my fondest memories and met some of my best friends through the years playing sports. 

There is so much life to be lived after sports, so much more to strive for and accomplish. Everyone knows the old cliche about the glass being half full. You can choose to dwell on this door closing in your life or focus on the new one opening for your future. The lessons you learned through sports are going to stay with you forever and lead to success down the road in whatever you put your mind to. 

As for athletes whose careers are simply put on pause, take a moment to appreciate how fortunate you are that your ride isn’t over yet. As an athlete, you know all about overcoming adversity and fighting through turmoil. We’ve trained our whole lives to handle situations like this. Things aren’t always going to go how you plan and you can’t control that. What you can control is your response to that adversity. 

It may feel like all that hard work you put in has been for nothing, but that’s not the case. You grew while fighting through the pain of training and are stronger now both mentally and physically from it. If you are discouraged about not having a season this fall, know you are not alone in that, but there is a silver lining. 

Knowing I wouldn’t be able to compete again until at least 2021 took a toll on me. I was feeling sorry for myself and sulking when I could’ve been focusing on the future and making the most of my circumstances. I am one of the people lucky enough to be able to return to the sports I love down the road, and realizing that lit a new fire within me. Growing, training and struggling beside teammates and friends that will never get that chance again has made me more appreciative. I feel more motivated than ever to continue training for my next opportunity. 

Life is about putting yourself in a position to succeed when opportunity comes your way. Opportunities can be few and far between and they aren’t promised. You truly never know what play is going to be your last and I don’t want to leave any room to question whether I put in enough work to prepare for my opportunities. 

I have always been a huge fan of sports and had a competitive spirit. Through 2020, I have developed a new, more intense love and appreciation for sports, and I am truly thankful for that. It’s easy to take things for granted and oftentimes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. 

Remember the pain and anger you feel from having sports being taken away from you now. Use that as motivation to push yourself even more and remain thankful for the opportunities you’ve had and will have in the future.

Published by Caitlin Srager

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