On August 10, the Great Midwest Athletic Conference postponed all ‘high risk’ sports in the 2020 fall semester, effectively canceling the Charger football and volleyball seasons and moving them instead to the spring semester. The Charger golf, tennis, and cross country teams remain in competition.
For football, this decision to postpone is on par with the decisions already made by many college conferences.
These postponements continue the interruption to sports that originated in March. Coincidentally, this was when the football team should have had their spring ball session, a vital time for coaches to instruct and hone the skills of the new team.
My teammates and I have not felt this much uncertainty about what to expect since our freshman seasons. I recognize the apprehensiveness I once carried into my first season away from home: stress dredged up from my first three weeks isolated with 120 loud strangers on a new campus, without any guess as to how the upcoming year would go. Looking back, this memory provides a comparable present-day emotion, but not just for the athletic community.
Uncertainty for a return to normalcy hangs overhead and taints thoughts about what is to come. Irrespective of the politically-charged arguments about COVID-19’s virulence, each person must deal with the rules imposed. For the members of the football and volleyball programs, this pertains to the GMAC fall season collapsing. For the academic community, this entails continuing class in-person, adhering to the protocols outlined by experts in epidemiology, and remaining steadfast against the barrage of universities’ mass movement to online instruction.
While everything else today seems to be in limbo, some things remain the same. During this time of year, the college still bustles with activity as students and staff finalize pre-semester preparations. As everyone will soon come to realize, the way things are done here may have been modified, but their function and purpose remain the same. There is still food to be eaten, rooms to be lived in, and there will still be essays to write. We still have school together, which is a paramount privilege, especially now for student-athletes without guaranteed athletics.
For those who have played under Coach Otterbein, the proverb “control what you can control, one play at a time” has a familiar ring. It continually reminds us of several things.
First, it implies that you cannot anticipate every challenge that you’ll face during a given time. The chaotic environment today demonstrates this concept.
Second, it reminds us that everything we face is a chapter with a start and an end. This serves as a rallying point in tough times, and a sobering reality after momentary triumph.
Lastly, it confirms that there are things that you can always control. On the football field and in life, these universals are attitude and effort.
Right now, my body cannot help but feel strongly out of place. I should be finishing the last week of my senior fall football camp, heavily freckled, sporting a fresh case of chinstrap acne, and gingerly easing my bruised body into the cafeteria ‘football tables’ (the two long conjoined tables that are as close to the food as possible).
There is no use now in wallowing in the fact that we would have finished fall scrimmage earlier this week. There is no use wallowing in the absence of play time, or even in the inside jokes my teammates and I would have developed. Having learned from the past, now is the time to look ahead.
During my freshman year, in the three weeks the football team spent alone on campus before the rest of the students arrived, I wondered what it would be like to be a regular student, unhampered by long practices, sweaty gym sessions, and meticulous film study. Mind you, at the time I was also cramping in bed from exhaustion and nursing the day’s beatdowns.
In light of the chaos surrounding this pandemic, Coach Otterbein’s wise words extend beyond the football field and into our uncomfortable reality. I sincerely hope it is short-lived, and that the Charger football team will exercise its attitude and effort to prepare for a championship season, whenever that time may come.
Jonathan Burton is a senior linebacker on the football team studying politics and Spanish.