It can start as early as when you learn to walk. You get involved in a sport and you know little about how much it will govern your life and fill you with happiness. It teaches you more life lessons than any one person or thing ever could: how to work as a team, overcome adversity, work hard and countless more.
Your sport becomes an integral part of who you are, and you love it more with each passing season. When senior year finally rolls around, you do everything possible to go out with a bang, to make it the best season on record, to accomplish all your goals, because for most high school athletes, that is the final hurrah. For the class of 2020, this is not the case.
I’ll be the first to admit my senior track season is not of the same paramount importance as stopping the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), hence saving lives. I know how crucial this time is for humanity as a whole, rather than the individualistic perspective of how it affects each of us indirectly.
However, putting everything in perspective does not take away the sting from realizing the harsh reality that, not only my senior year, but my senior season is being stripped from my grasp. Just when everything seemed like it was coming together, my training was paying off, and I was getting back from injury, racing in meets, the coronavirus came to Georgia and along with school, extracurriculars were suspended.
Although the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) has not released an official statement suspending athletics indefinitely, with states like South Carolina effectively ending all the sports’ seasons and with a return looking less likely as the severity of our coronavirus situation increases, I have began to prepare myself for a similar outcome.
A salvaging thought is normally, “There’s always next year,” but in the case of most senior athletes, next year is not an option. Some of us will play sports in college, but even then, every athlete wants to brag to their college teammates that they had the best senior year, that their senior night was one to remember, that they won state or beat their rivals or received a recruitment offer.
For the class of 2020, the senior season will always carry the mark of the coronavirus. Also, for the class of 2021, recruiting opportunities for spring athletes have been greatly affected and could seriously impact these athletes’ ability to play in college.
The pain does not come from losing one season; every athlete is hurting in that sense. The pain comes from knowing that, in my case, every mile, 5:30 a.m. morning, blister-dominated weekend, skipped party, offseason training plan, painful workout upon painful workout, ounce of pain and effort, and blood, sweat and tears in the most literal sense, was unable to contribute to my supposed highlight year. I do not believe it was all in vain, as I know I’m a better athlete and person as a result of it, but it is an unexplainable distraught that comes when I think about the 2020 track state meet.
This goes for all senior athletes; we looked forward to this year more than any other athletically, just to see it swept out from underneath us. However, although the season may be over on paper, that does not mean we need to stop pursuing our goals and working every day. Pick up a ball, go for a run, get one or two friends together and find a field. The quarantine does not have to bring an end to our sport, even if it turns out to mean the end of our season. It may be an abrupt finish to years of hard work, but stay positive, healthy, and as always, consistent.
A senior athlete