Quar­terback Luke Keller looks to pass in a game last season. Courtesy | Camryn Olson

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.