As a rising senior on the women’s volleyball team at Bucknell, I was devastated when I heard the news about the fate of my final season in the Patriot League. Coming off of a severe knee injury that kept me from playing my junior year, I was so excited to get back on the court after tireless rehabilitation hours. I wanted to get back to where I was before my injury, if not better. On top of wanting to prove to myself that I could endure and bounce back from such a mentally and physically draining injury, I felt as though now I wouldn’t get to have the proper ending of this chapter of my life as a collegiate athlete.
Collegiate athletes are suffering and an overwhelming feeling of frustration and confusion when they receive the news that their Fall 2020 seasons are canceled due to the uncertainties surrounding the spread of COVID-19. On July 9th, the Ivy League was the first Division 1 athletic conference that decided to postpone and possibly cancel the 2020 fall sports season. The Patriot League (excluding the U.S. Military Academy and Naval Academy) followed suit four days later. Sports that are affected include football, soccer, cross country, field hockey, women’s volleyball, golf, tennis, and men’s water polo.
These leagues have stated that conditioning, strength training, and other practices will be permitted provided that health and safety conditions support these activities. The possibility of having the fall season carried over and taking place in the spring of 2021 is contingent upon improving the coronavirus pandemic conditions.
After receiving that email from my athletic director, I took a moment to look back on how much of my life I spent at volleyball practices, training sessions, tournaments, the weight room, the training room, and everything else in between. And now, there would be no grand finale to my volleyball journey that began when I was just eight years old. I felt so frustrated that my experience was getting cut short. I wouldn’t even get a proper senior season to take pride in and say, “I did it! I have finally made it through all four years of the crazy highs and lows that come with being a D1 student-athlete.”
Once I was able to get my head around the facts surrounding the future of my collegiate athletics career, I took a step back and realized that so many other athletes are going through the same experience as me. We’ve devoted our lives to our sport. Many of us have now gotten a full season taken from us. We need to remind ourselves that we are not alone in this process. We need to stick together during these trying times. I decided to reach out to other college athletes that have also gotten their seasons canceled to ask how they are doing, what they are doing to stay motivated, and how their perspectives and mindsets may have been affected by the pandemic. While hardly unforeseen, we were no less disheartened and upset when it was officially announced.
Here are some of their stories:
What were your initial reactions to hearing your season was canceled?
“I was upset when I heard that our season was canceled. As fall athletes, we have been training hard to get ready for a season originally planned to start at the beginning of August, so it is a bit frustrating to have that suddenly taken away. I felt awful for all the spring sports when they had their seasons ended so abruptly, and now, unfortunately, we are all in the same situation. The fall soccer season and competing with my team is my favorite part of Bucknell, so I am hoping that we have the chance to play in the spring.” – Holly Burns (Bucknell W Soccer Jr.)
“When I found out that our season was canceled, I felt so disappointed. The Fall 2020 season was about to be such a new and exciting experience for the other incoming freshman and me. But now, we don’t get to compete and win in the sport we love.” – Sarah Ramirez (Bucknell W Volleyball Fr.)
Have you found training difficult?
“I have been pretty motivated to train despite the season getting canceled. I am coming off an injury and haven’t played soccer since the end of our last fall season. So I am excited about getting back into soccer and training.” – Holly Burns (Bucknell W Soccer Jr.)
“At first, yes. I didn’t feel motivated to do anything because I was grieving a loss. What helped me keep pushing forward was the dedication aspect—even if I’m not motivated to work out right now, I love this sport and training in general, so I’m doing it now for my future self.” – Taylor Cigna (Colgate W Volleyball Fr.)
“The motivation has been difficult to find knowing there is no season.” – Quinn Revere (Lafayette Football Sr.)
If you’re able to play again, how will this experience change how you look at your sport?
“I think playing in future seasons will not be taken for granted. Each game and practice will have so much more meaning than they ever did before.” – Colgate athlete
“I won’t take it for granted ever again. And I’ll learn to appreciate the little things more—hanging out in a locker room, bus rides, etc.” – Taylor Cigna (Colgate W Volleyball Fr.)
How has your experience as an athlete prepared you for this type of adversity?
“In every single practice and game, athletes will make mistakes. No matter how hard you work, sometimes the game just won’t go your way. Yet we don’t quit because we have so much love for the sport and face whatever adversity comes our way. This attitude has been instilled in us ever since we began to play.” – Sarah Ramirez (Bucknell W Volleyball Fr.)
“We’ve dealt with a lot of hardships our whole careers sacrificing free time and social life activities to play our sport. This is a new example of adversity we face every hard practice, all the sacrifices, and losses we face from sports.” – Anna Carroll (Bucknell W Volleyball Sr.)
“Being an athlete is about overcoming adversity. Taking a loss and learning from it. It’s taught me how to learn from negative events.” – Cornell athlete
What would you tell a High School athlete right now?
“I would tell them to keep pushing! This is only a minor setback, and you need to keep training and to better yourself so that you can get stronger when you can compete again.” – Camryn Anderson (Bucknell W Volleyball So.)
“Keep at it and work hard now. Otherwise, you’ll be kicking yourself when you’re competing again and aren’t as good as you could be if you would have used this time off effectively.” – Bucknell athlete
“This pain and loss are temporary. What you’re working for will give you lifelong memories. Rely on your team, and remember that it’s okay to be upset about what’s going on.” – Taylor Cigna (Colgate W Volleyball Fr.)
Quote that has kept you motivated and in a positive mindset:
“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.” – Joseph Campbell
“Our team uses a quote, “All in, all the time.” I like this one as it keeps everyone in a positive mindset, even though we are no longer preparing for a season this coming fall.” – Holly Burns
“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” – C.S. Lewis
To help to relieve stress and clear their minds, college athletes have also been taking part in activities such as running, going to the beach, golfing, and just getting outside in general. Along with getting some fresh air, they are also staying inside to paint, read, draw, solve puzzles, and go to the gym. I have been trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle by continuing to train every day, spending time with friends and family while being home, going to the lake, and getting reality TV therapy.
One quote that has kept me going throughout this whole experience is one from Kobe Bryant. He said, “Everything negative- pressure, challenges- is all an opportunity for me to rise.”
We all need to try to make the best out of this stressful situation by continuing to work hard, staying focused on our goals, and accepting this challenge. If we can do these things, we can come back stronger – mentally, physically, and emotionally than before.