A Letter to Seniors Losing Your Last Season to COVID-19

Dear Senior Student-Athlete,

The end is always abrupt.

For years, your focus was on the next rep, the next opponent, the next play. Suddenly, there may be no next in your formal sports career.

Millions of student-athletes before you have experienced the unexpected weight of that moment — the tears leaving the playing field for the final time and the overwhelming reality you’ll never step on it again.

Nothing can prepare you for that, and yet, you, in 2020, are experiencing something almost no other high school or college senior student-athlete has endured.

It wasn’t a better opponent that ended your season. Or a missed play. Or a losing record in a regular season finale.

It was a virus. A pandemic.

Your reality didn’t hit as a substitute called your name from the sideline.

It could have come on Twitter. Or via email. Or from your parents. Or a politician.

Just like that, it’s over. No spring season. No more sports to play.

Not the end you expected … or deserved.

Nobody will know if you could have broken a school record — or even last year’s personal record.

It all seems so cruel and unfair.

Because it is. …

But here’s the good news: That doesn’t make you a helpless victim.

You can’t choose your circumstances. You can only choose how you respond. And guess what? A unique trial gives you a unique opportunity.

There’s plenty of increasingly hollow sports clichés that light up with new meaning when applied to this situation.

“It’s not how many times you fall down; it’s how many times you get up.”

Let’s couple that with, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Or, “no pain, no gain.”

Think about it this way: You’ve been dealt a big blow. Life just added more weight to the barbell. You’re in pain.

But this will make you stronger.

You may never be able to step foot on the playing field again for your school, but God has given you a beautiful starting point for a redemption story.

Every good book, movie and story pivots with a conflict. It gives the story tension. We love well-told stories because in the face of seemingly impossible odds, the hero of the story overcomes.

It’s the overcoming that makes the story powerful — that could make your story powerful.

If you respond well, the very thing that stings the most now will be the thing you could be most thankful for down the road.

Not having the opportunity to finish something the way you want this time will only make finishing that next goal that much sweeter.

When you deal with challenges later in life, the character you developed during this season will get you through.

More importantly, when someone you’re close to loses something outside of their control, you’ll be able to empathize and love well.

Let’s look at a couple Scriptures that bring this home:

  • James 1:2-4: “Consider it great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
  • Romans 5:3-5: “… we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Let’s apply this to your situation specifically:

Consider it joy and boast that your final sports season was canceled, because that situation will produce endurance, which will lead to greater character, which will lead to hope and maturity — which will not disappoint.

In short: losing your final season can lead you to hope. Hope that God will use this chapter in your story to grow you into the person He wants you to be.

You could stay down on the mat. You could quit. You could let this become a root of bitterness in your life that eats at you. …

Or you can pray that God will redeem this challenge for His glory and your good. And if you’ve put your trust in Jesus, Romans 8 tells us this situation will work out for your good.

The ball is in your court. How will you respond?

I’ll be praying that this difficult loss will become the backdrop for some of your most impressive wins.

Sincerely,

Stephen Anderson