Sports, and much of the world, have effectively shut down over the past few weeks. COVID-19 has picked off different sporting events, games and seasons one-by-one.
Taylor University is in the same boat.
The NAIA tried holding out hope for their spring seasons, longer than many other athletic organizations, but officially pulled the plug on all 2019-20 sports on March 16.
The news cut promising Trojan seasons short. The record-breaking women’s basketball team couldn’t play out their national championship tournament.
Women’s lacrosse, men’s tennis and women’s tennis didn’t get a chance to play out their final season.
The outdoor track teams won’t get a chance to build off their successful indoor seasons.
Baseball, softball, men’s lacrosse and golf all had strong starts to their spring season.
“We’ve all tried to view the cancellation of our season through proper perspective but it certainly has been very disappointing,” said Women’s and Men’s Golf Coach Cam Andry. “Our student-athletes had worked extremely hard to put our teams in a position to win the Crossroads League title and compete for a national championship, so to not have the chance to see that hard work pay off has been difficult.”
While students are having to adjust to being home and taking classes online, student athletes have to adjust to both the new classroom environment, and being away from their team.
For seniors, they’ve likely played their last game, hit their last shot and had their last practice.
“I love all four of our seniors as they make up half of our team,” said junior women’s golfer Taylor French. “Realizing that I won’t ever get to play with them in a college event was really, really hard. (The seniors) were really looking forward to playing at conferences and nationals.”
For underclassmen, it feels like they’ve had part of their careers ripped away. They will miss the relationships they’ve built with the seniors.
Not to mention, most will just miss the chance to play.
“Thinking I had two more months with the seniors and the seniors have two months more in general, and they don’t.” said sophomore baseball player Cole Schrock. “That’s probably the hardest thing right now. Seeing that we should be playing right now, and then also seeing the season just get taken away from the seniors.”
Gone are the daily workouts, team meetings and practices. Student-athletes are having to find ways to get creative and stay focused on their sport, and coaches are having to find ways to stay in contact with their teams.
Teams have tried to stay connected through virtual communication.
“We are going to have weekly team meetings through Zoom or a different application like that where we can connect and hangout with everybody,” French said. “Personally, I’ve Facetimed a lot of my teammates over the past couple of weeks to stay in communication and connection with them.”
The cancellations came up out of nowhere.
There was no warning or ability to prepare for most athletes. Schrock said the surprise of the news had a few silver linings though.
“The really odd circumstances ended up bringing us closer,” he said. “That last week(before Taylor shifted to online) was one of the most fun weeks we had as a team. It brought us closer those last couple days, and was more motivation to stay in touch outside of school.”
French also spent her final week on campus around the team. Much like Schrock, she focused on the seniors and spending time with them as their careers came to a close.
“I think that we just kind of focused on — as silly as it sounds — grieving for our seniors.,” French said. “We spent a lot of our final days at Taylor together, which wasn’t that different from usual.”
Coaches have also seen their spring schedule dramatically shifted. Andry has had to cancel several upcoming recruiting visits and alter how he and his student-athletes handle the spring season.
He knows how hard a transition like this can be though, and wants his squads to focus on academics and health, first and foremost.
Schrock says he’s tried to find ways to workout at home, but has focused more on adjusting to life at home. French, a graphic design major, said she has spent a lot of her time working on her design portfolio, away from the deadline-driven atmosphere of school.
Now, like many people in the world, student-athletes and coaches wait. They aren’t sure when they will be able to get back on the field, court or course, but they look forward to the day they can.
“As much as I think that I have control over my life, I really don’t because there are no guarantees in life,” French said. “The thing that I do know is that God is in control, so I don’t have to be. I have to continue to trust that he knows what he’s doing, and his plan will ultimately bring glory to himself, and that he is working all things for the good of those who love him.”