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The Impact of COVID-19 From a Student Athlete’s Perspective

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Salena LeDonne

PHS '17, Stockton University '21

As coronavirus continues to ruthlessly sweep the globe, we are all forced to surrender to the uncertainties of what the new normal might look like. Lately, one of the most prevalent thoughts looming in my head is whether or not I will have a soccer season this Fall.

Considering the severity of the coronavirus circumstances, obviously sports should not be anyone’s first priority. However, being a member of the Women’s Soccer team has truly shaped my identity as a college student. As a rising senior at Stockton University, the impact of coronavirus will dictate whether I will have my final hurrah, or if I’ll join the thousands of others whose athletic careers ended prematurely.

Like the shifting of a pendulum, my hopes of stepping onto the field again have swayed back and forth repeatedly. With each update comes more unanswered questions, leaving the status of returning to play somehow both optimistic and improbable at the same time.

Because I’ve been awaiting the next piece of news, I’ve put writing this on the back burner. I thought, how could I offer useful advice to a fellow college athlete when I don’t know what the future holds?

I’ve since retracted that notion, instead concluding that now more than ever student athletes must support one another with that same camaraderie we bring to our sport.

Whether this Fall would be your senior, junior, sophomore, or freshman season, I wanted to be a voice for anyone else struggling to accept that this season might not occur. While we impatiently wait for the verdict, here’s what I have to offer:

1. Train like it’s happening.

With oodles of excess time on our hands, there is really no excuse to not be staying in shape even if preseason might not happen. In fact, this is the first summer I might actually be in ideal shape by the time mid-August rolls around and there might not even be a fitness test for me to run. Anyone who plays a Fall sport knows that preseason is utterly brutal, so the idea of no preseason does make staying on the couch all day enticing. However, it’s really a win-win situation. Work hard and preseason does happen--great! Work hard and preseason doesn’t happen--are you really going to regret getting in shape?

2. Your set-back is a set-up.

This tip is for those of you who are not seniors or for seniors who plan on utilizing the extra year of eligibility that will likely be granted if the Fall season is canceled. Think of this time as a chance to work on the weaknesses in your sport, and remember that the best antidote to a setback is mental toughness. Coming from someone who will not get the opportunity to compete at this level again assuming Fall sports are abolished, I challenge you to challenge yourself during this athletic intermission.

3. Remember why sports are so valuable.

For me, it’s been frustrating to come to terms with the fact that after sports consuming my life for over a decade, this might be how it all ends. However, in a lot of ways, this devastation aligns with the life lessons sports have taught me along the way. The importance of attitude, preparation, and unity all being part of that equation. But the most powerful--and relevant--lesson is being willing to let go of what you cannot control.

The coronavirus is hitting the post on a penalty kick. It’s missing a first down by fingertips. It’s swishing a game-winning three just after the buzzer blows. No one knows better than athletes that life isn’t always fair, and just like you can’t reverse a referee’s call, you can’t change the current circumstances in the world.

To those who do get the chance to play again, whether it be this season or next, I hope you kick butt. To those who don’t, know that even though coronavirus can take sports away from the world around you, it can never take away what sports has left within you.

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