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What It Was Like For One Division III Player To Learn Her Season Was Over

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(Photo by Salem College)

The week the coronavirus changed life as we know it was unlike anything I had ever expected. It was then that I learned my sophomore softball season at Salem College—a season I had fought so long and hard to participate in—was over due to concerns surrounding the virus' recent worldwide outbreak.

Here is my timeline of events as a Division III softball student-athlete, beginning on March 11.

03/11/20 after 7:00 p.m. ET: After not being on social media for several hours, I opened my phone to what felt like one million Twitter updates. I found out the Ivy League had canceled all of its spring sports. A few hours later, Team USA announced that it would postpone games in Washington and Oregon. This is when I finally realized that the coronavirus was a lot more serious than I thought it was. Little did I know how much would happen over the course of the next day.

03/12/20 before 4:30 p.m. ET: Program after program around the country had canceled or postponed their seasons, and right before I walked into practice, the NCAA had announced that the Women's College World Series was canceled. My teammates didn’t believe me at first when I told them. How could they cancel the WCWS more than two months ahead of time? At this point, I was scared and in shock.

03/12/20 6:45 p.m. ET: Our coach gathered us for a talk after practice and told us that our season had been postponed until at least April 13. I watched the tears come down the faces of our seniors and I couldn’t hold back my own tears, either. No one in a million years could have predicted that something like this would happen, and I only wished there was something I could do to make things better for my teammates.

03/12/20 8:00 p.m. ET: Our spring break was scheduled to start after classes ended on Friday, March 13, but we received an email from our college's president telling us we wouldn’t be returning to school for at least an entire month. I could not believe how much our lives had changed in just a matter of hours.

03/13/20: I packed up my belongings and arrived home in South Carolina just before 3:15 p.m. ET. Shortly after arriving home, I received the news I desperately did not want to hear: Our conference—USA South—had canceled all spring sports. I couldn’t imagine the pain my teammates were feeling. We had just tied the program’s longest winning streak at nine games. We had faced so much adversity and worked so hard for us to only play 14 games. I was devastated.

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NCAA Softball Division I Transfer Tracker

A ton of college softball players have entered the transfer portal this year. Track the movement here.

My personal feelings of devastation resulted in large part because this was the first season in years that my throwing arm wasn’t in pain. I had surgery last June after initially injuring my right shoulder back in 2017. I spent all summer in physical therapy and did not throw a ball until the end of August. This season, I was feeling great and starting to play like my normal self again. While my arm will probably never be at full strength, I was finally experiencing some relief from the pain I had felt for so long and truly enjoying playing the game I love so much.

Fortunately for thousands of student-athletes across the country, the NCAA announced that all Division I, II and III spring student-athletes will receive an extra year of eligibility for losing this season. While this is good news for many people, it does not work for everyone, and especially Division III athletes. Since we don't receive athletic scholarships, paying for another year of school is not plausible for all impacted student-athletes.

While softball has been a huge part of my life for 11 years, it cannot be my entire life. I am a Division III student-athlete who has never been helped financially to play the sport I love, and I'm paying the same loans as everybody else who attends my college. To be honest, I don't know what the coronavirus' impact will mean for the future of my softball career.

If you would have asked me a few weeks ago or even at the beginning of last week what I thought this season would look like, I never could have predicted something like this happening. No one could have. Fifty years from now I’ll tell my grandkids about the coronavirus and its impact on my 2020 college softball season. And I hope to be able to tell them that I was safer and better off because precautions like these were taken.

Emma Gaston is a Softball America intern and sophomore outfielder on the Salem College softball team. You can follow her on Twitter here.

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