Column: The Heartbreak of a Senior Athlete

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Isabell Kopf

"To have to close the door on number 16 for the final time, it is a heart-wrenching feeling," senior Isabell Kopf writes of losing her final softball season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Isabell Kopf

When I first heard that Governor Evers was shutting down the state until the end of April, I was shocked because I didn’t realize the extensive damage the virus had already done.

I had been looking forward to my fourth and final softball season since February, so it was extremely disappointing to hear of the closure after our first softball practice. We still had hope it would not be our last, but when the safer-at home order was extended and shut down all K-12 schools through the end of the school year, it really sunk in that this was it: no senior softball season.

As many may have known or assumed, WIAA athletics follow all school closings. This means that with the extension of the safer-at-home order, thus ended any hope for a 2020 spring sports season.

The WIAA officially cancelled spring sports on April 21, which means all those involved with softball, baseball, track and golf at CHS are missing their seasons. No chance to letter, no chance to earn conference honors, no chance to achieve their personal goals. However, there is talk about allowing graduated seniors to participate in competition that occurs during the summer, but there are still more discussions to be held.

Losing this season means I don’t get to wrap up a pretty memorable athletic career at CHS. I don’t get to work with another amazing team or coaches who help me be a better athlete and person. I don’t get to be with my best friends for a final “hurrah” and spend these last months making memories together.

Before the safer-at-home order was in place, I was already fairly emotional as I was entering my final athletic season ever as a Chilton Tiger. I have loved my time playing volleyball and basketball all four years of my high school career and was excited to play my fourth season of softball this spring. Although I knew the conclusion of this season would mean I hung up my gear for the final time, I also knew I would remember how each season I ever played was exciting, rewarding and memorable.

It is upsetting to recognize that in the blink of an eye, the finale of this important chapter in my life was ripped from my hands. Due to an injury from this past basketball season, I already knew my softball season may have been in jeopardy, but I was unable to get the injury looked at before hospitals closed their doors to all non-emergency appointments.

In a way, I had already prepared myself in the event I was to miss this season, but now my teammates, coaches and other competitors are in the same boat as I am and trying to come to terms with reality.

Even for non-seniors, losing something one loves to do is challenging. To go from a typical 10-12 week season to now no season at all, it’s tough for any athlete. Those weeks are spent developing skills and working with new teammates to fight for a common goal, and now that goal is irrelevant.

It’s heartbreaking.

It seems as though everything I have worked for from kindergarten until now has led to nothing, both as an athlete and a student. The most painful thing is knowing what could have been and what now cannot be. No senior prom, no senior softball season, no other “lasts” that I knew were coming but didn’t want to think about back in September. At that time, I wanted to focus on enjoying the moment in front of me, not those off ahead in my future. And now all I can do is look forward to the time when I will finally be able to hug my loved ones and hear their laughter in person.

My heart goes out especially to my fellow classmates and other 2020 class members who do not get to savor the months before entering a new chapter of their lives. But please remember your efforts to get to where you are today were not wasted. Although it hurts not being able to have these last months, whatever lessons you learned, skills you developed and memories you created throughout those years have made you the individual you are today, and that is something lost time can never take away from you.

I have been asked multiple times this past year, “As a senior, what advice would you give to the younger classes?” And I have always said the same thing: do not take your time for granted. Put your phone away when you are visiting with friends and family. Make sure to tell them that you care about them. Do not push these things off until “next time” because sometimes the “next time” never comes.

It is now the end of week number six of quarantine, and I am still adjusting to reality. But one thing is for sure: the next time I hang out with friends or spend time with my extended family, I am going to savor every minute of it because “next time” is never a guarantee.