Amber Fiser Talks Coronavirus Cancellations, 2021 Return
After the NCAA ruled in favor of eligibility relief earlier this week for the college softball players who saw their 2020 spring season cut short by COVID-19, a slew of senior softball student-athletes came forth on social media to announce their intentions to return to their respective Division I programs in 2021.
One of those student-athletes was Minnesota senior ace Amber Fiser, who took some time to speak with Softball America over Zoom about her decision to return to the Gophers' squad in 2021, as well as the impact of the coronavirus on her senior season.
See SA's interview with Fiser below.
How does it feel to be announcing your decision to play a second senior season over Zoom?
Amber Fiser: It’s definitely an incredible feeling. I remember being in Hawaii and getting the news. It was devastating. At that moment, I thought my career was done. I didn’t think that I’d get another opportunity.
When they released it that we were going to get one the next day, I thought that was a big relief. But then I found out about two weeks later that they were going to have a meeting to decide whether or not they were going to give us that. A lot of nerves came with it and I didn’t know the decision they were going to make because there were a lot of rumors going around that they weren’t going to grant us another year, so once I saw that they were going to give us another year, I just felt really relieved and really thankful not only to the NCAA for giving us a chance, but also to the Big Ten and Minnesota.
When did you and the team find out the news about the coronavirus cancellations and how did everyone react?
AF: We had our last game Wednesday night (March 11) and (Coach) Jamie Trachsel had talked to us before the game. We had a talk on the bus ride over to the field. Jamie had mentioned before the game that we never know when it could be our last (game), so go out there and play your hearts out.
How have you been managing your emotions through this?
AF: Every week, we have a team meeting on Zoom. We all see each other, we’re all staying really, really close. We also have partners that we pair up with every single week just to make sure that we’re all staying in touch with one another. We do videos even, every Monday and Friday, to see how the week is going to go and how the weekend went, and we always share one thing that we’re grateful for.
Did you think about being a graduate assistant at all to be able to stay on campus longer?
AF: I definitely thought about being a grad assistant because I wasn’t fully ready to leave yet. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my future. So I thought it would be a great opportunity to be on a different side of softball and see what coaching is like. But I’d much rather be able to put a uniform on.
What do you think about the NCAA’s full decision about eligibility and the complexities, mostly financial, that come with it?
AF: It’s a very big decision, especially for seniors, because some of them might already have their careers figured out. I know some of our seniors do, and it’s a big decision for them right now about putting their careers on hold.
I’ll only get this opportunity once, so I’m going to fulfill that dream. Whether I have to figure out the money situation myself, I think that’s a factor that people are going to have to start thinking about, whether it’s worth it to them or not, or whether they want to start their careers or not.
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When you told Coach Trachsel and your teammates that you were coming back, what were their initial reactions?
AF: I think she had an idea that I would absolutely come back no matter what if I had the opportunity. She was really happy about that. I called all the coaches before I made the announcement and they were all really, really excited to have me back. It was the same with my teammates. All of them had reached out to me and they were really excited to have another year and just see how great we’re going to be.
How many of your senior teammates do you think will come back and how good can your team be next year when you have that group with new freshmen coming in?
AF: I honestly have no idea how many seniors are coming back. I really haven’t reached out to them because I’m just trying to give them some space and time to think about everything. I know (Coach) Jamie (Trachsel) has been on the phone with them as well nonstop trying to get everything figured out. That decision is up to them. I hope they decide to come back because I’d love to be their teammate again and I'd love to have them as part of this team.
I think with the incoming freshmen, it’s really exciting to have them because they’re going to be a great class. I’ve heard so many great things about them. I’m also excited to be able to play with them and be a senior and teach them what Minnesota softball is all about.
This is an interesting time for you because you get a taste of what life is like without softball in the middle of your career. Do you feel like you can use that to your advantage going forward?
AF: Absolutely. It’s kind of like a big wake-up call. You get a taste of going 100 percent to zero percent within a day. Just being able to use that experience and understand that anything can be taken away in the blink of an eye and really to value the time that you have with this opportunity you have to be an athlete for four years, and not only to represent your university, but yourself and your teammates as well.
I’m very grateful for the opportunity again, but I have to understand that it is 10 months away, so I have to find what not only motivates me, but also what helps motivate my team, and work on getting myself better and helping the team out as much as I can to get us ready for next season.
Assuming a lot of seniors come back across the country, how good do you think this sport will be next spring with the depth of talent that every team might have?
AF: I think this year, in general, was very different. I think that there were a lot of teams that were upsetting (other teams), so you could never look at the rankings. They meant nothing this year, honestly. Everything was all messed up. I think that’s what makes it so much fun, though, just because it shows you that you can never underestimate a team. Every team is going to be good and have good players on it, and I think that having the amount of seniors who are going to be returning, it’s just going to make things that much more interesting.