Thank You, And We’re Sorry: Senior Athletes Cope With Cancelled Seasons

Greenbrier+Park%27s+gates+are+locked+after+the+coronavirus+pandemic+forced+Yorktown%27s+fields+and+courts+to+close.+

Philip Blumberg

Greenbrier Park's gates are locked after the coronavirus pandemic forced Yorktown's fields and courts to close.

Philip Blumberg, Sentry Staff Reporter

Sophomore Kalle Masci was blissfully unaware of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s momentous decision as she remained concentrated on her chemistry work. Only after a barrage of texts on her GroupMe chat for the school softball team did she pick up her phone and realize what was happening.

“This is the worst way to end this and you two don’t deserve this … I can’t even imagine what you guys are feeling right now. We love you so much. I’m so sorry this happened, it breaks my heart for you both,” read one message. 

“You’re an amazing person, so don’t stop ever being you! Thanks for being there for me and good luck at [Virginia] Tech,” said another.

Text after text, directed towards the two seniors on the team, flooded the chat as the news continued to spread: the rest of the school year would be cancelled across the state; spring sports were effectively canceled.

“In that moment, the group chat just wanted to console the seniors. They had put in so much time and effort for the program here, so everyone knew how devastating it must have been for their final season to be canceled. The rest of us are just lucky we have the opportunity to continue playing in the future,” Masci said. 

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus was deemed so dangerous, and the need for social isolation so imperative, that Northam made this enormous decision with three months still left in the year. While it is certainly a safe measure that will ensure the health of students, seniors will be abruptly and painfully stripped of their chance to properly finish their academic and athletic careers at our school, and instead spend their final semester completing online assignments from home while practicing safe social distancing. 

Every spring sport varsity team will now struggle to find a way to properly send off their seniors, who have sacrificed their time and worked tirelessly for four years to represent our school on the court, field or diamond. Maybe private parties will be thrown, but that would not adhere to the social distancing guidelines that we must strictly follow and will undoubtedly fail to recreate the unparalleled atmosphere of a final game. Maybe teams will wait for the outbreak to subdue before crafting some other celebration, but that will feel oddly timed no matter what. Maybe nothing can be done – unfortunately, there is no true solution to properly honor seniors after the sudden end of their high school careers. 

In normal circumstances, they would be celebrated at Senior Night for their respective sport, where they would be paraded with their families at their final home game of the season. Senior Night is a culmination of every after-school practice, Green Day, film session, workout, scrimmage and game across a senior’s time at our school. It is usually deeply emotional, as the players have matured and grown into strong individuals over the course of their careers at our school, and their long journey from being introduced to a sport to representing our school on a big stage is finally coming to an end. 

For some, that journey has been over a decade long. Senior Jada Lansing, who is one of the seniors on the softball team and a recipient of the group chat messages, has been playing the sport for the past ten years. 

“I am overwhelmingly sad that I didn’t get to play my senior season … When I heard the news, I was in a state of shock. Before the season, I couldn’t stop thinking about how it would finally be my turn [to be a senior]. But we played only one game this year and [the seniors] didn’t even know it was our last,” Lansing said.

The pain of this loss is also magnified for those who had hopes of repeating past success. Many spring sport teams have achieved remarkable accomplishments recently – for example, last year the girl’s soccer team won the state championship, while the boys tennis team went undefeated in conference play for the first time ever. Seniors on both teams, who tasted that success, were ready to seek it again. 

Although raising a state championship trophy was an incredible experience for senior soccer player Maggie Hall, it’s the little moments that she will miss the most. 

“[The cancellation] was almost surreal … I’ve played competitively since third grade, and with both my club and high school seasons cancelled, it’s definitely an abrupt and sad ending. I’m sad about our lost potential for states, but more about the smaller moments, like after-school practices and game-day breakfasts,” Hall said. 

While some seniors will continue their respective sport in college, the vast majority have now completed their amateur athletic careers. With their final moments as a high school athlete gone, they will no longer feel the comradery, passion, intensity and drama that make sports so special in the first place. 

“This year should have been the pinnacle of a culmination of many years of playing baseball, but unfortunately [the season] was cancelled. Knowing my competitive athletic career is over is difficult to accept. I will miss the close bond of the team, and how others pick you up on bad days and how you pick up others on their bad days,” senior baseball player Peter Ogden said. 

Seniors had to say premature goodbyes to the game they love, their coaches of four years, and the teammates they bonded with through it all. They were deprived of the opportunity to spend their last few months of high school playing their sport for a final year, and their afternoons will consist of Netflix and Snapchat, not practices and games.

Heartfelt messages, like those in the softball group chat, might be all that can be offered to seniors to help them cope with the pain. 

“When the texts in the group chart started coming in, that’s when the cancellation hit me the hardest. At the end of the year, for Senior Night, underclassmen give speeches to the seniors … Seeing all the messages felt like a replacement since we won’t get a Senior Night this year. I felt so much love when I saw all the messages of people saying they felt like Sydney [the other senior on the team] and I did not get the season we deserved. It’s one thing to feel that way yourself, but it’s another to know others share the same sympathy,” Lansing said. 

Even just five words would suffice: thank you, and we’re sorry.