“I hope you remember this feeling.” This phrase I have heard countless times from coaches over the years after either a memorable win or a defeating loss. Last Thursday, the world of athletics was hit with a huge loss as all our seasons came to a screeching halt. So now more than ever, I hope we, as in every coach, player, administrator, and fan, remember this feeling, this loss, and this void.
While this has been a blow to the gut for everyone involved in the world of athletics, I feel like it could be one of the greatest opportunities we have ever been given to put things into perspective and reflect on why we love what we do, regardless of outcomes.
It is so easy to get wrapped up in the trivial aspects of sports: the wins, the losses, the stats, the rankings, the interviews, and so on. We are all guilty of this. But what happens when sports are taken away entirely?
It is no longer the statistics or the record we obsess over that we miss, but the excitement, the passion, the connections, and the relationships that have been cultivated and created using the platform of athletics.
There are common situations that have the ability to put things into perspective especially in sports: a death, a serious injury, an accident, an addiction, a pregnancy, and so on. However, those situations might only bring clarity for a certain period of time and for a select group of individuals.
This past Thursday, no individual, team, or university was spared from this situation, and the world of athletics was shut down through a matter of Twitter announcements. For the fans, it was shocking, but for the athletes and coaches, it was not only shocking, but disorienting and unnerving.
Athletics provides support, balance, predictability, connection, and structure. For softball, I can count on the start of fall individuals and conditioning that comes in mid-August, then 20-hour weeks begin and run for six weeks, then we return to individuals once again before Thanksgiving, then we go through finals, then we return to campus in January to begin pre-season, and then we start the season at the beginning of February. I can give you the same predictable layout for every single day of the year as well.
For athletes, I feel like most of us have spent hours complaining about this structure over the years and talking about the “sacrifices” we have had to make throughout the years whether it is playing during spring break or missing class during season. However, in the blink of an eye, every winter and spring sport athlete realized that what the sport gave them far outweighed what they sacrificed for the sport.
We take sports for granted. Every game day, February through May, we expect that the game will show up for us whether we are ready or not. So what happens when game day stops showing up? That anxiety and excitement that once filled you is now replaced with a void of disappointment. While my game day anxiety at one point felt completely unbearable, I now feel lucky that I can feel so passionately about something and care so much about a team that has been given to me through the world of sports.
I feel that it is so important in this moment now to sit and reflect on what we miss about our respective sports because I can guarantee you that the things that seem so important and consuming in the moment like your hitting slump, your ERA, and your record, now are blurs. While that may have pained you then, the true pain that is felt now is the absence of a game that brings connection, support, familiarity, and family.
I know that sports will resume at some point, and we will all want to forget that this break ever occurred. I also know that fans will return to boo-ing their own quarterbacks, coaches will chew out their players once again over a loss, and athletes will get stuck in their slumps. However, I hope in those heated, familiar, competitive moments that we are all so accustomed to in sports, that we can take a step back and remember this feeling. This loss, this void, and this emptiness is so much deeper and stronger than any disappointment you have ever felt by a poor outcome or a frustrating performance. I hope we learn to stop taking the game for granted and appreciate everything it gives us beyond the glory of winning.