While being a sports writer in a big Division I school means covering future pro-athletes and nationally televised games, being the sports editor of The Sandspur means engaging in an immersive experience for totally different reasons.
By covering Rollins Athletics, I write about some of the most talented and competitive athletes, tried and tested coaches, and storied and decorated Division II (DII) programs in the country. It also means writing about the same people I sit in class with, share a dorm with, or go out with.
I have always found an immense sense of pride and satisfaction in writing about these seemingly ordinary people pushing themselves to achieve extraordinary feats. If the achievements of the fall were any sign of what was to follow, this spring promised to be one for the books.
I was looking forward to the crew team turning those early morning workouts into victories. I was keeping my fingers crossed for the tennis and the golf Tars as well.
I was privileged to see the women’s lacrosse team go head-to-head with the No. 1 team in the country and have them on the backfoot, and I was moved to see the men’s program play with a solemn sense of unity and legacy.
I was excited to see the softball team shatter records, and intrigued to watch the baseball team outswing its opponents.
I was rooting for the swimming and sailing head coaches, both of whom had some head-turning debut seasons. I was even hyped for the intramurals, which are anything but uneventful.
Part of the reason why I love this job is that sports is a metaphor for life. But as John Lennon once said, life is what happens when you are too busy making other plans.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has stopped life around the country, indeed the planet, and that includes the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). There are legitimate questions of trophies, funding, and eligibility being posed that I would not want to be the one to answer.
But that was the last thing on anyone’s minds amid the roller coaster of emotions that this past week took us on. On the contrary, we felt a lot of things, ranging from disbelief to a sense of being robbed of our time (and any student athlete will tell you that their time is precious).
I think we can all agree we felt for the seniors a little more. In addition to not getting the chance to enjoy a lot of “lasts,” or the opportunity to say goodbye properly, students in varsity teams were deprived of their swan song.
There were those who were getting ready to set new career highs, those who were getting in hot scoring form, or those who were shaving time off of their records.
Yet, I am equally in awe and respectful of those who worked hard at practice without counting how much playing time they got, those who helped bring the locker room together without seeking the spotlight, or those who fought back injuries without letting it define them.
To all of them, I would like to say the following: yes, this sucks, and I am sorry. But if there is one thing you all have had to learn, it’s how to bounce back from frustrating moments. This is part of why we are proud of you and humbled by your efforts.
I would also like to point out that despite what you were going to learn or gain from those games you were going to play, you are now in a unique position to draw some unprecedented life lessons. This may not be what you want to hear, but as you are well aware, sometimes you just have to trust the process.
And there is always next season. To be clear, I am not talking about the NCAA. I mean in life. You are all going into the “real” world, where you will have bigger shoes to fill and more responsibilities to carry out. Some of you may choose to continue to stay involved with your sport, whereas others may take completely different life paths.
But no matter what you choose, you will always have those learning outcomes to help guide your decision making. Not many people get to say that.
So if I could leave you with anything, it would be a sense of accomplishment for what you have provided to this campus and to your families, friends, coaches, and teammates. I will always remain grateful that I got to witness and be a part of that journey, even if from afar.
Remember that you will forever have a home in Winter Park and, as always, Go Tars!
Henri Balla, Sports Editor
The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur or Rollins College.