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The New Normal How COVID-19 is impacting life on and off campus for NCAA members

Like countless student-athletes across the nation, I had my whole world flipped upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus took away my ability to finish my senior year of baseball; have a senior day; complete my degree on campus; make lasting memories with teammates, classmates and friends that I’ve spent the last four years with; participate in countless senior activities and celebrations; or even just have a normal graduation.

More importantly, it also took away my overall sense of closure from Becker.

We all enter into college wide-eyed and filled with anxiety about what the future has in store. But even with all these uncertainties, we envision snippets of what we hope to experience down the line.

We do not know how well our athletic or academic careers will pan out, but we look forward to walking out onto the field with our loved ones on senior day or completing our last final exam and celebrating with all our peers, who we both struggled and succeeded with for close to half a decade.

Simply packing up our things, moving home, attending online Zoom classes and submitting assignments until one day the due dates stop and our “e-calendars” are empty does not and should not feel like an adequate end to a college career that we have put so much into. Student-athletes have invested our time, money, blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul into our respective institutions and programs with an end goal in sight, just to have the rug pulled out from under us right before the finish line.

Progressing through this unfortunate reality is a truly difficult task that, even now, certainly doesn’t seem real. But as the class of 2020, we cannot allow ourselves to be defined by the circumstances we face; instead, we must react and overcome.

Embracing reality can be one of the most difficult things to do in life, but for the hand we have been unfairly dealt, it is precisely what we need to do. Our success as a graduating class will not come from dwelling on what has happened but rather from focusing on how to improve our future. Whether individually or collectively, we have the opportunity for immense success. It just depends on how hard we are willing to work and what we are willing to endure to get to where we want to be.

COVID-19 did not take away our accomplishments. It did not take away our friendships. It did not take away our memories. And it certainly did not take away our spirit.

Some of the ways in which I have been able to make my way through quarantine: constantly communicating with friends, teammates and family through various social media outlets, staying active and truly doing whatever I can to try to come out of this situation better than when I entered it.

When it comes to achieving and maintaining academic success, I have found that a proper setting and a routine can be extremely beneficial. Making sure you are using every resource available to you and reaching out for help (or even just guidance) can truly go a long way.

From an institutional standpoint, I believe it is imperative that coaches, administrators, professors and everyone else do their best to honor this graduating class by somehow finding ways to help create a feeling of closure for their student-athletes. Whether it be through online recognition, videos or even a plan to host events (like graduation ceremonies and senior athletics banquets) in the future, having an open and direct stream of communication between student-athletes and institutions is vital at a time like this.

We all know that not being able to be on campus hurts our school’s faculty just as much as it hurts student-athletes. They have dedicated their time and, more specifically, their professional lives to help us reach success both on and off the field. The harsh reality of not being able to be there in person and help us reach the finish line is something that is heartbreaking for them. Student-athletes are aware of this, and we truly appreciate all the work they have done and all the work they have continued to do for us.

All of them have helped get me to this point. Later this month, I will graduate with a degree in business administration and a concentration in sports management. It will be the end of one chapter in life and the beginning of another.

Yet it’s hard to turn the page.

What I’ll miss most spans much further than just stepping into the batter’s box and playing baseball for Becker. What I’ll miss most is the game of baseball and all of the fantastic opportunities it has brought me on a daily basis.

As you progress through your time as a student-athlete, you see your athletics career slowly drifting to the end. During this time, you will find you are going to miss the game itself tremendously. It is everything else that comes along with being a student-athlete, however, that I expect you will miss the most.

I know I will.

I will miss my teammates, my coaches, my athletic trainers, my fellow classmates, my advisors, my athletics department and everyone else at Becker that made this time so special. Whether it be on or off the field, I did not take a second of this opportunity for granted, and I cannot express how grateful I am for everyone involved for giving me four years of memories and lessons that I will take with me for the rest of my life.

Although my time has been prematurely cut short due to circumstances out of my control, I have gained family for life, and if I could do it all over again, I would not change a single thing.

For many of us, the last time we would step onto a field and compete as collegiate athletes was unknown to us. But what we do know is that it was not our last time being student-athletes. Although you may have expended all of your eligibility, being a student-athlete is something that never truly leaves you.

You will always have lessons, memories and, most importantly, an extended family that expands all across the nation to fall back on. Once you become a part of the NCAA family, you are there for life.

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