Many athletes across the nation have lost their sports seasons due to the spread of Covid-19, including the girls representing the McDowell Softball Team. Hard work through the fall and winter to prepare for the 2019-2020 season came to a halt on Friday, March 13, after it was announced all K-12 schools in Pennsylvania were to be closed for 10 business days.
However, the 10-day closure eventually extended to the rest of the school year as classes were held virtually, resulting in all after-school activities being cancelled. All softball practices have been prohibited by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association to ensure the safety of players and to enforce social distancing guidelines.
Before seasons were officially announced as cancelled, the girls on McDowell’s Softball Team were hopeful for a chance of playing on the field.
“It has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions. At first whenever it happened, you felt shock, and then there was the disappointment, and the sadness, and then the empathy for the girls, especially the seniors who have put in so much work,” says McDowell’s Softball Head Coach Maureen Wolfe.
As seasons are cancelled, four seniors at McDowell High School, Faith Renwick, Kacie Irwin, Rachel Helsley and Corrine Bechtold are being deprived of their last year of high school softball.
Wolfe finds the most upsetting part of the closure to be “watching the seniors put in three and a half years but (they) didn’t have the opportunity to prove themselves as leaders and to have the typical senior experience. The typical senior banquet, the typical senior recognition, everything that makes your last year of high school sports extra special,” Wolfe says.
Players, such as Paige Irwin, who is a freshman on the team, also feels disappointment for the lost season as she did not get to take advantage of the coaching and support for the full season. Irwin, along with other girls on the team also experience sadness for the missed opportunities to travel as a team. For example, the players were scheduled to play in Myrtle Beach in early April.
Now that in person practices are prohibited, the coaches and players are trying to find ways to coach from home. Wolfe offered her team inspiring quotes, memes, voice-recorded stories and workout challenges at home to help support her team.
“The most important thing to focus on right now would be our mental health and how to stay positive in negative situations,” Wolfe explains.
Irwin uses her home equipment, such as hitting nets and tees, fielding drills and her dad to help her refine her skills during this time at home. However, as some girls may not have this equipment or the help from family, Wolfe decided not to hold mandatory online practices. She does consider online, bodyweight-only drills to be a viable option if workouts are still not allowed to be held during the school year. Wolfe is also open to watching her players practice over conference calls and giving them critiques that way.
Plans for summer leagues depend on Governor Tom Wolfe’s decision to put Erie County in the “Green Phase” of re-opening the state to business. Once this happens there are chances for summer games to take place in July. However, there is no certainty as to when this will happen.
Wolfe describes this as, “living in such a stage of unknown that we don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring, even more than usual in life.”
Irwin and Wolfe believe that the chances of being able to play in the summer are slim, but both hope for the best.
The idea of wearing a mask during play seems to be a topic of discussion as people in the community seek solutions for safety during games.
“That would be difficult, especially as a catcher,” Irwin says. “I have all this gear on, and a mask, and a face mask, but I’m willing to try. I’m always open to new ideas.”
Wolfe also sees wearing masks as unusual but feels as though it can be overcome by the players’ passion for the sport.
“I think it’s one of those things where we miss the sport so much that it would definitely be strange, but because we miss it so much, we would do things that aren’t necessarily comfortable, that are not the ideal situation, just to be able to experience it at all,” she says.