For nearly a year now, college softball has been on hiatus due to the worldwide impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, softball student-athletes around the country have had their lives upended by the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought with it.
Former SA intern and current Illinois College softball player Payton Dubberke is one of those student-athletes. Like thousands of other softball players around the country, the sophomore catcher has had to adapt and adjust to life in this strange COVID-19 era.
See below for a letter Dubberke wrote to the sport she loves that expresses the emotions she's felt over the past several months without the certainty of its presence in her life.
I know we first met a long time ago, but I figured it’s time to write you a letter and catch up. I’m extremely frustrated right now. I know it’s not your fault, and I know that you cannot help it, but I just want to play again.
Last year, I was so excited to come to Illinois College as a freshman. All I could think was, "Can you believe it? I finally did it. I am a college softball player." Yet, there were different plans for me, and our world as a whole, last year.
At first, I was confused. How would a virus shut everything down? I was scared and didn’t know what it would mean for the rest of the school year back in March. Then, slowly, big schools around us started closing down and going virtual. Conferences suspended play. Then, we all got a group text from our coach that told us we had a team meeting instead of our usual two-hour team practice. We all walked in with worried looks in our eyes. We knew what was going on around us, but it really wasn’t our time to shut down, was it?
Coach walked in with ice cream bars. That's when we all knew. My first season as a college athlete was officially suspended, only to be canceled a few days later. Sure, I still have three seasons remaining—four if I use my eligibility for graduate school—but having my season ripped out of my hands with no warning took away a lot of firsts I was excited for. Now, I know there is more than just me and so much more going on in the world, but I had to feel sad for myself for a minute.
It’s so hard to go from traveling with your team, practicing each day and doing weights three times a week to doing nothing and sitting in your dorm doing online school. Well, I finished up the year and luckily I had a year left to play travel softball.
Then rolled around my second school year full of masks, social distancing, hybrid courses, and adjusting—lots of adjusting. It was weird at first having to practice in small groups, lifting with our masks on and not being around each other as much. But then I realized that I just needed to be grateful for the time I have with these girls. It may be different and it may be tiring, but at least it’s something. At least it's softball.
With a season of unknowns ahead of me, I'm worried for what's next. Is this going to be another season of firsts down the drain? Now, softball, I know you can’t control what happens next and you miss players being on your fields just as much as we miss playing, but a lot of us are sad, confused and lost without your consistency in our lives. I sure hope we get to see each other again soon. Miss you so much.