2020 Seniors, by now it is all starting to set in; the realization that you will never play the game again. It was not supposed to end this way. I am sure a lot of you, if not most, had visions of riding off into the sunset with a championship in your hands. Others saw themselves getting one more spring in the sun, enjoying the game that they had played for their whole life, ending your career with another season full of memories.
But now all of those thoughts are just that, thoughts. Nothing more than wishes that will never be fulfilled. It is unfair. No one could have prepared you for having this last season being stolen from you. Do not let anyone tell you that it was “just a game” or that “life goes on.” I am also sure that a lot of people have said something like, “you are onto bigger and better things!” Those people mean well, and they are correct in that way of thinking, but a part of you died the day your season was cancelled. A part of you that you can never get back.
2020 Seniors, give yourself time.
Give yourself time to mourn the loss of the season. This season might have been the end of your career. No more practices after class with your team. No more bus rides to away games. No more hanging around the field, track, course, or court with nothing to do and nowhere to go. No more early morning lifts, conditioning sessions, or scrimmages. You ate your last meal as a competitive athlete, and you had no idea it was happening.
The fact that the season cancelations were so sudden is what makes this whole situation such a dagger to the soul. Usually when you are a senior, you see the end coming. You might not necessarily count down the days to your last game, but you are definitely aware that the end is near. You were supposed to have time to prepare for the end, but you, a member of the 2020 class, did not have that luxury. Your final season was stolen from you.
Believe me when I say this; I am deeply sorry for your loss.
It would be wildly unfair for anyone to tell you that they know what you are going through. Even those people who had a season cut short due to injury do not know the unique pain you are currently going through. There are not many people who had their final season ripped away because of a pandemic.
But where do you go from here?
Especially with the school cancelations and time spent couped up at home, you have had hours and hours to just think.
I know most of you cried when you found out that you were suddenly a retired athlete. Don’t worry, I cried too. Everyone does when it is all over.
But I am here to tell you this; someday, it will all be okay. Maybe not now, a week from today, or even a month or two. But trust me, you will be okay. That might sound cliche right now, and it probably is not what you wanted to hear, but it is true. Sports are beautiful, aren’t they? Maybe you did not have the glamourous career that everyone wants or sees in the movies, but you had your career; no one else did.
2020 Seniors, take a moment.
Take a moment to just clear your head and only think of those positive memories that you had from your sport. Really define why you loved the game and what you will miss. If you are able, I suggest getting together with your teammates and just fellowshipping as a team. Use this time as an opportunity to encourage those who are younger than you. Tell them things that you wish you would have known when you were their age.
Whether you know it or not, you learned life lessons in your own way that you will take into your next chapter of life. As you enter the real world, you will be able to quickly differentiate who played sports and who didn’t. As an athlete, you will have a natural competitiveness that non-athletes won’t be able to create on their own. Whether you are going on to college or the workforce as a former student-athlete, use the skills your sport gave you to bring up those around you to be their best.
You are so much more.
Here is the final thought I want to leave you with that I, myself, struggled with after my playing career was over: You are so much more than an athlete that played your sport.
2020 Seniors, for some of you, this sport was a major part of your identity. Perhaps you were even known as the “softball girl,” “the golfer,” “the track star” or that “baseball guy.” You might have lived your life with your sport at the center of it. Family vacations had to be scheduled around your games, and sometimes going to Atlanta, Georgia for a tournament was your family vacation.
Saying no to things was a common occurrence for you growing up because you always had practice or a workout somewhere. You missed out on a lot of things that other kids got to do who didn’t play your sport. But here is the thing, you didn’t care that you had to say no to those things. Never having a spring break was absolutely fine with you. Why? Because you were busy falling in love with a sport that you couldn’t see your life without.
2020 Seniors, you are still here.
That sport is gone, but you are still here. The sport is not your entire identity; it was a part of you, but not all of you. It might take a good amount of time for you to find out who you really are beyond your sport, but you can do it. How do I know? Because athletes who have dedicated their life to a sport are used to rising above adversity and becoming stronger afterwards.
Take some time to take it all in and digest everything. I suggest taking the time to personally thank your parents, siblings, coaches, athletic trainers, and teammates for everything they have done for you over the years. You have not gotten to where you are completely by yourself, but by the support and encouragement of those people that love you.
Good luck to whatever is next for you.
Work hard in everything you do, and then work a little harder.
You are stronger than you think.