By Tom Mauldin 4/20/2020
Pretty much everyone is finding the new normal not to their liking. And for high school softball players navigating this unknown in one form of isolation and or social distancing is especially difficult…especially stressful. After all, they have lost something of tremendous value, something for which they had prepared hours at a time. Then, almost swiftly, their reward — game day — was taken away. Most players will tell you that they love to “compete,” but the best part of playing softball are their “teammates.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, they have lost this attachment. With loss often comes a grieving period. Former college softball coach Carrie Kosderka-Farrell says it is okay to grieve over the loss of the 2020 spring softball season. “We sacrifice for something we love and now it’s gone. It’s difficult to walk away from something that you didn’t get to complete,” says the former Concordia-Portland University softball coach. Today, Kosderka-Farrell is a licensed mental health counselor, who specializes in working with athletes and athletic departments. Softball just doesn’t give players a chance to compete or learn life lessons. For some, it’s a safe haven… a stress-free, fun-filled environment. “The happiest place on earth is on the field, with our teammates. They are our biggest connections,” says Kosderka-Farrell. Kosderka-Farrell reminds us not to feel that because ywe’re not on the field that we’ve lost your connections. We all can still reach out to teammates and coaches (your coaches have lost their seasons as well, she says). The COVID-19 pandemic has taken everyone’s season away and created times unlike any other for most everyone no matter their far corner of the world. But while difficult, it is not hopeless. Imagine what it would be like without modern technology. “We are lucky with today’s technology we can easily connect with our teammates and coaches,” she says. “It’s important to stay connected … we can’t bring the season back. We can’t solve this problem because we can’t. Everyone is going through many difficult times. But we can connect. It’s important.” Keep your perspective about what sports really means. Sometimes we lose the perspective. The reality is it challenges us in so many ways and teaches us so many things we will utilize the rest of our lives. “It makes us feel good about ourselves,” says Kosderka-Farrell. “Look at yourself and ask who am I if I am not an athlete.” While we are adapting to this time without softball and adjusting to online school, many will need to work on time management and there will be those who will find it hard to remain positive. “We must be flexible,” Kosderka-Farrell, a former University of Utah softball standout says. “This time of angst and unknowns is teaching us flexibility. We need to make the best of what time we have. Don’t let this time disappear.” Kosderka-Farrell had a career-ending injury at Utah and said that “difficult” experience made her stronger and has — in a way — better prepared her for dealing without softball this spring. “We all are given things that are bigger than we can handle.,” she said. “We must learn from this. We must manage our mental game. This IS helping us manage our mental game.” While this may seem like a helpless time because something has been taken away and we feel like we can’t do anything. But we can … we must look at this as a blessing. We must step back and re-assess who we are. Kosderka-Farrell says finally, “we must” make the most of the situation. “Take this time to be a better person and be a better teammate,” she says. “Being a great teammate and someone who can be taught and hold themselves accountable will last you forever. Look at this as a gift and make your next season the best ever.” As difficult as this is, it’s a growth opportunity … let’s not miss it.