I see things differently now after the 2020 lacrosse season, or lack thereof.
It was the start of the 2020 lacrosse season, my sophomore year. As a college lacrosse player, the fall and summer are for preparation and the spring is game time. It’s what you look forward to all year. From the chatter in the weight room to the meals together as a team, all thoughts are focused on the spring.
It was no different in 2020. As a sophomore at the time, I knew what to expect and how I needed to prepare. I would even go as far as to say I was looking forward to my second season in college lacrosse more than the first.
As the season rolled around and we prepared for our first several games, news from China was developing. In Iowa, we were so far away from all this news, yet we couldn’t help but wonder if this new extremely contagious virus would ever reach us in the Midwest. The news seemed to be getting scarier and scarier. Footage of sick people swept the internet and stories of those who were dying from COVID-19 made it so much more of a shocking reality.
In the meantime, we put those worries and thoughts on hold and just hoped and prayed we would be able to get our season in. Just three games into the campaign, our distant fears became much more of a reality.
We were on the road playing games in Michigan when the reality really started to sink in. I distinctly remember coming back to the hotel from a personal record-setting game and turning on the news in the room. Breaking news bubbles were across all channels alerting us to locations in the United States that were reporting cases of COVID-19. This was the realization that our lives and season were about to take an abrupt hit.
After arriving back in Iowa, it was just a matter of days before lacrosse seasons across the country began to get cancelled. From the big schools to the small schools, all were opting to cancel their seasons. We knew we were days away from the NAIA and our conference deciding to cancel ours, too.
I remember the day so clearly. I was recording a podcast with a teammate as we got the group text from our coach letting us know our fears had just come to fruition. I can remember feeling my jaw drop and the sadness over the season sink in. This feeling was quickly swept away by the unknown ahead and how my life and our world as a whole would change.
We were all sent home not long after our season was cancelled. Soon, our team, which had spent every day together, was back at their homes across the country. We were without lacrosse and all facing the harsh new reality of the pandemic. There were a lot of changes being made, from adapting to working out back at our homes to wearing masks while at the gym and more. Countless Zoom calls and FaceTime calls kept much of our team together.
Looking back at it now, it feels like it was years ago when instead it was just a season back. I appreciate my time on the field even more now because of the season that was taken away. Each and every time I suit up with my team or get a chance to have my name called in the starting lineup, I take a moment to remember how blessed we are to be playing this sport. That year without lacrosse will be a constant reminder to us all that everything we have can so quickly be taken away, so value every moment we get together playing such an incredible sport.
My perspective and story of the pandemic season is just one of many. Below are thoughts from other college lacrosse players and friends of mine who all experienced the season without lacrosse amid the pandemic.
Player Perspectives on the 2020 Lacrosse Season
Alex Kungle – Mount Union (DIII)
“COVID-19 gave me the opportunity to focus on myself, the way I play, and most importantly I was able to better myself for the future season.”
Justin O’Marrah – St. Ambrose (NAIA)
“It was a tough year with so many cancellations and protocols, but having the ability to play was huge. When we were on that field, the game seemed to move the same as it did before.”
Connor Beals – Canisus (DI)
“Having the season canceled last year was very rough, especially being at a JUCO trying to get recruited. I ended up committing to Canisius that March but had to transfer in January because of eligibility reasons. Once I transferred in, it was really hard coming right into the season during a pandemic. We were only allowed to be at the athletic facilities or in our dorms, so I was not given the best opportunity to get to know all my teammates and build relationships.
“Another scary part was the COVID-19 testing every week, because if someone tested positive, then we would be on pause for two weeks, which means we wouldn’t be able to play two games. Fortunately, our team was disciplined enough to overcome the adversity and did not have a single positive test during the season.”
Camille Tiako – Lake Erie (DII)
“So many hours, hard work, dedication, and sleepless nights put forth to be able to display it all on the big stage. But unfortunately, this was completely stripped from us during the 2020 lacrosse season. I suffered a concussion against Le Moyne on March 4 and missed our home opener on March 11. Later that week – a few days before getting cleared to play against Walsh – we got the news that the remainder of our season was cancelled.
“It didn’t feel real – almost a dream, it felt like. Tough pill to swallow for all of us, especially the seniors that year. A lot emotions followed. Definitely a year that all of us athletes will forever remember.”
Zach Boschert – Missouri Valley College (NAIA)
“COVID-19 had a definite effect on my team, from getting sent home after three games into the 2020 season, our team being very young, and not being able to gain the key experience. On top of that, we missed out on the overlooked aspect of getting a full bonding experience of completing a season together. It really hurt our team on those fronts going into the 2021 season.”
Sam Samuel – Iowa State (MCLA)
“During COVID-19, the entire scope of things was quite stressful. Everything that was done, was done very calculated and carefully executed in order to ensure everyone’s safety. If we as a team were careless and did not safely proceed with our daily lives, that essentially meant that our season would be cut short. To me personally, I wanted to play more than anything being that it was my last season. With the thoughts of this being the end, it gave me the motivation to lead my team to a full season while ensuring every players’ well-being and health.”
In closing, I ask each and every one of you to never take a minute for granted. Whether you experienced the 2020 lacrosse season as a college athlete or not, take the time to cherish every moment you get playing this amazing sport surrounded by your teammates and friends. From the endless hours of wall ball to lining up for the national anthem, these are incredible moments we only get so many times. Live each moment to the fullest!