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Wisconsin's Kayla Konwent Talks Uncertain Softball Future

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(Photo by Tom Lynn via Wisconsin Athletics)

Now that the dust has settled a bit in the college softball world following COVID-19's cancellation of the second half of the 2020 season, SA has taken some time to catch up with current college softball student-athletes while they are quarantined at home.

Today's college softball player on display is Wisconsin's Kayla Konwent, who was one of SA's Shortened Season College Top 100 selections. Since Wisconsin has decided not to honor the NCAA's decision regarding eligibility relief for seniors, Konwent's college softball future is uncertain at the moment.

See SA's interview with Konwent below.

How did you and your team find out about and react to the initial news of the coronavirus cancellations?

Kayla Konwent: We originally found out through social media. I don’t have a Twitter, but the rest of the seniors do, and they took a screenshot of what the NCAA released and sent it in our senior group chat. I couldn’t even comprehend the words I was reading. We FaceTimed each other, just to kind of make sure it was real. Unfortunately, it was. We were devastated and tears were definitely shed.

Because this year felt different, our team and the senior class was closer than ever. We beat some great teams, and we just knew we were going to do some amazing things this year. We were determined to be the first Badger team to make four straight NCAA appearances, and it was hard to come to terms with the fact that it was just over.

Recently, Wisconsin's athletic department announced it would not allow a final year of eligibility for its senior spring student-athletes despite the NCAA's available waiver. How has your team, and especially the seniors, dealt with this?

KK: We understand their decision. I think the message possibly could’ve been communicated better to affected individuals, but that being said, the people making these decisions are in the position they are in for a reason, and at Wisconsin, we are one team. From (athletic director) Barry (Alvarez), support staff, coaches, student-athletes and each person involved in helping make our experience at Wisconsin possible, we support each other and know that the decisions being made for us are in our best interest.

Now, you still have two more years of eligibility remaining due to a medical redshirt in 2017 and a shoulder surgery in 2018. Do you have any idea what your plans for the future are, either academically, athletically and/or career-wise?

KK: I am not totally sure what my plans for the future are yet. It is going to depend on how my body is feeling and how conversations go with my coaches, support staff, family, and most importantly, my athletic trainer Ashley Parr.

It’s very hard to make decisions for so far into the future with much more important things going on around us. My dad works in a hospital and I see daily how serious this virus really is, so I’m not taking anything for granted. This virus has reminded us that we are all equal to this virus—it treats us all equally—and it reminds us of how precious our health is, and if we don’t take care of ourselves there will be negative consequences.

Life is precious, so I’m currently just trying to take care of the things that are important right now, and fully investing in those things. Finishing this semester, taking care of my mental and physical health and enjoying time with my family. I love softball very much, but in this time, I think I have to focus on the right now.

Unfortunately, you've had a little bit of experience sitting out of seasons and having to set long-term goals for future seasons, but do you think those setbacks prepared you better to persevere through this difficult and unprecedented time?

KK: My past injuries have absolutely prepared me for this time. The first time I got hurt I had sort of an identity crisis because my whole world revolved around softball, and all of a sudden, I couldn’t play. Not only the first time, but the second time as well. I had to come to realize that my identity is in Christ, not in softball. I am a softball player, yes, but softball doesn’t define who I am as a person. My faith defines me. I play softball because I feel I have been blessed with a gift and have been provided with an incredible platform to invest in others along the way.

What are you doing to stay motivated and stay positive?

KK: In this time, my faith has been the thing keeping me positive and filled with hope for the future. There isn’t much you can do about the virus, except play your part and stay home. Knowing your purpose and your why in these times is so important. It’s much easier to tackle each day when you know why you are doing the things you are doing. You have to have something to push you to do things you don’t necessarily need to but should to better yourself. For some people, that’s the Lord. For some people, it's friends and/or family. Each person has to remember what gets them out of bed in the morning. We all have a purpose.

Assuming a lot of seniors come back across the country, how good do you think the competition level in NCAA softball will be next spring?

KK: I think the competition level definitely has the opportunity to be better than it’s ever been. However, I can’t help but think what this time off will do to the game. With the lack of live at-bats this spring, and the lack of batters for pitchers to throw to, and the incoming freshmen potentially not having travel ball this summer, it will definitely keep things interesting. I think if people are stubborn about achieving goals, no matter how big or small, and are flexible and creative in the ways they train, they will be the winners in 2021.

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