Westminster students respond to cancelled pro, high school athletics

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has disrupted nearly all social affairs and produced much devastation in the lives of those around the globe. In the United States, major professional sports have either cancelled or postponed their seasons due to COVID-19, including the NBA, NHL, MLS, NFL, MLB, WNBA, and the Masters golf tournament. Other major sporting events such as the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, the Tour de France, the Kentucky Derby, and Wimbledon have also had their events pushed back. Millions of people around the world have expressed their grief not only for the loss of professional sports but for the students who participate in college and high school sports. High school, college, and professional athletes alike have been affected by this crushing news.

At Westminster, the cancellation of all spring sports has affected the lives of many student athletes who were looking forward to finishing out their seasons. Spring sports such as baseball, boys and girls lacrosse, soccer, tennis, track, and golf were forced to end their seasons early, preventing them from reaching their goals for the spring season. This was a tough blow for many athletes since many teams had just begun their season.

The cancellation of spring sports affected the senior class most greatly, however, because their last season of high school athletics came to an end without warning. Although the senior class was not able to have a special season filled with practices and games, this has not stopped their teams from making sure they feel loved and appreciated in their last year. The Westminster girls lacrosse team recognized their seniors over video chat where they shared their favorite memories together as a team.

“It was a bittersweet moment for all of us as a team, but I am just very happy that we were still able to find a way to celebrate our seniors,” said junior lacrosse player Caroline Hagood. “They deserve so much better than to have the season cut short and it has been such an honor to be able to play with them over the past few years.”

Looking through a broader scope, the Westminster senior class of 2020 represents only a small fraction of athletes around the world who are crushed because they are unable to finish out their season. While GHSA states that high school seniors will not be able to receive extra eligibility since they are only permitted eight semesters of GHSA events, the NCAA has granted an additional year of eligibility for Division 1 spring sport athletes. However, the NCAA has not yet guaranteed any financial aid to athletes if they decide to return next spring since it could create a possible significant financial cost for athletic departments. Ivy League schools such as Yale and Princeton, however, have denied their senior athletes an extra year of eligibility. In the world of professional sports, athletes have begun to face problems regarding their contracts with their teams. Many professional teams have already started to negotiate cutting their athletes’ salaries as well as furloughing their employees.

“It has been pretty upsetting to see all sports-related events being either cancelled or suspended for the time being, but I do think it is for the best,” said senior Zachary Roe. “While I do think it’s good that some sports are trying to do a shortened season like the MLB, it might be hard for the players to find a balance between playing and being with their families. If they were to participate in the season, that would mean they would have to leave their families for long periods of time and it could possibly put them in danger of the virus.”

While students understand the dangers of re-starting professional sports leagues without proper precautions, many miss the comforting presence of sports. In the meantime, TV programs  like ESPN have resorted to alternate content like their latest documentary on Michael Jordan’s career, The Last Dance. Still, many feel that this does not make up for the lack of live-action sports. 

“It has been a slow couple of weeks, for sure,” said junior Aydin Bandukwala. “There’s not much going on in terms of sports programming, which is especially difficult because sports are typically what everyone watches to relax. I think everyone misses college and pro sports, at least to some degree.” 

In addition, high schoolers looking to pursue an athletic career in college have faced additional roadblocks as the recruiting process remains unclear due to the COVID-19 epidemic. This is especially felt by athletes in their junior year who are still in the process of looking to commit to a college since many colleges have been forced to push back the recruiting process. 

“The summer before senior year is a huge deal for getting recruits, so it’s been pretty challenging and frustrating since everything has been moved to the end of summer,” said junior lacrosse player Maddie Van Slyke. “This means that we have had to change all of the plans that my family and I have made, such as booking plane flights and hotels, and also visiting colleges and their lacrosse teams.” 

While the pandemic has caused great disruption in the world of sports, the Westminster sports teams are finding their own ways to connect with their community of friends and families to try and make the best of their time at home. The same goes for families of college and professional sport athletes. For example, many professional teams and athletes have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by donating money to help those who are greatly affected by the pandemic and promoting the practice of social distancing. Amid all of the chaos and fear of the pandemic, it has brought athletes of all kinds closer together as they continue their efforts to spread positivity.