How Senior Athletes are Coping with COVID-19

How are Seniors handling the uncertainty of their seasons?

Although we are entering September, it feels as though we are still living in March. While we continue to social distance, wear masks, and stay indoors, athletes all around the world face challenges. 

In late August, the NCAA came to the executive decision to push back fall sports until the spring of 2021. However, the NCAA has yet to release a plan for what will happen to both winter and spring sports, and will not be doing so until October 1. Hearing these announcements sent sadness and shock through FPU’s Athletic Department. As for senior athletes, hearing this news was devastating, crushing any dreams they had of winning championships, accomplishing goals and most importantly, creating memories with their teammates. 

“One thing I miss already is just not having the guys around. What hits me the hardest right now, because I know I can never get this time back, is not getting to spend time with my teammates,” said senior Raine McKeython, a business major and guard on the men’s basketball team.

After months of unanswered questions, there still seems to be much uncertainty as to what winter sports will look like when—and if—they will return. With gyms being shut down for months and schools not being allowed to reopen, McKeython realized his highly anticipated season would continue unresolved. “I feel like, as a senior, it [not having a season] hit me a little harder than if I were a freshman. Your senior year is one of the most important years and with everything being unclear, it has left things very uncertain as I move forward,” said McKeython.

Although athletes would rather be playing with their teammates rather than sitting indoors, this will not happen until the NCAA can ensure players and coaches will be safe. 

“The competitive basketball player in me just wants to play, but then there’s the other side that understands this is a major issue. I feel by playing sports we wouldn’t be addressing the issue, but hurting it and making the problem worse,” said McKeython.

When asked what advice he had to share with fellow student-athletes in  the same situation, his answer was quick in coming: “Try not to focus on everything that’s wrong and instead see everything that is still continuing on in life. Nothing is over with.” 

    Katie Kisling, a psychology major and senior on the water polo team, has had a much different experience with COVID-19. In March of 2019, as the COVID-19 outbreak first began, all spring sports were canceled for the remainder of the year. Therefore, Kisling has had prior experience the heartbreak of losing your season to the virus. 

“I tend to be a person who thinks of all the possibilities of things that are going to happen, so even in the spring I was preparing myself for the possibility of us not playing next spring,” Kisling said.

    Following the cancellation of spring sports, the NCAA made a statement in which they announced that all student-athletes will receive an extra year of eligibility. By getting their eligibility back, this means that student-athletes can play for another year on their respective teams. Leaving the option of playing with their teams another year open allows teams to stay together for another season. 

While this is an amazing opportunity for many student-athletes to get their Master’s degree amongst other options, many may be leaving it open only as a possibility. 

    “I’m not sure if I would, but it’s definitely a possibility. Once I get to experience my season and all of the senior stuff, I’ll be ready to move on and graduate,” Kisling said.

Kisling has already experienced the loss of one season to COVID, and offered this advice to those experiencing that same loss now: “Maintain the relationships with your teammates, because they know what you’re going through. They know better than anyone how to encourage you and lift you up when you’re having a hard time.”

While we all continue to check our social media or newspaper for updates on the return of athletics, athletes have another source from which to receive new information. Men’s Head Basketball Coach C.J. Haydock opened up about providing his athletes with information during this vital time. 

“Everybody wants answers, and answers change week to week. It’s really hard for everybody. There’s a lot of conversation, there’s a lot of relentlessness, and there’s a lot of restlessness. But there’s also, I think, an opportunity to guide our student athletes who are future leaders towards a place of growth and hope and optimism and leadership as well,” Haydock said.

With seniors all around the world watching their seasons evaporate, there is much reflection to be had. 

“All of us in athletics have an opportunity to pause and reflect on how good our life is. There was a professional baseball player who said, ‘Sports are the reward for a properly functioning society,’ and sometimes sports can be a misdirect from the pressing issues of our world,” Haydock said.

Uncertainty looms on whether athletics will even begin this year, and what they will look like if they are able to make their return. However, our athletes will adjust correspondingly, as they have fantastic coaches on their side to help. 

While COVID-19 may be an affliction to athletes’ mental health, as well as that of coaches, students and teachers, there is also an opportunity for personal reflection during these difficult times. 

Author: Shyanne Mortimer | Co-Social Media Editor

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