There has been nothing but bad news for student athletes in the 2020-21 academic year.
On Dec. 14, 2020, the Board of Directors for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) voted to cancel the men’s and women’s basketball seasons, which was set to begin Jan. 9. In addition, the board voted to cancel the women’s volleyball season, which had been moved to the spring from the fall.
Then on Feb. 5, the CIAA board voted to cancel the season for softball, women’s tennis, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, and men’s golf.
After both decisions, CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams made it clear that a lot of anguished thought had gone into the decisions.
“Unfortunately, COVID-19 continues to challenge the conference’s ability to see a clear path to move forward collectively,” McWilliams said after the December decision. “These decisions are never easy, but the mental and physical health as well as the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and communities continues to be our top priority,” she said in February.
To find out the full impact of the cancellations, The Falcon Forum sought out several student athletes and asked them how they felt about their seasons being cancelled and how it had affected them personally.
“I was devastated,” said Joseph Harris, a member of the football team. “I really wanted to go out there and compete with my team.”
“I feel disappointed that the season is cancelled, because I feel as though strict COVID measures could’ve been put in place to allow the players to compete,” said Lisanne Roofe, a volleyball player. “It has been proven that it is possible to do so – for example, the NBA and D1 schools who have been competing.”
Makola Abdullah, CIAA Board Chair, said when the spring season was cancelled that the league had no choice. “We all want to have a season…However, the data, which changes almost daily, does not support such a decision,” Dr. Abdullah said. “The potential risk outweighs the desire to play.”
For many, the cancellations were not as painful because they did not come as a surprise.
“My feelings were neutral because I expect that’s going to happen,” said Tionna Graham, a member of the volleyball team. “With COVID, my expectations are really low for this year and the following year until this COVID thing is over. Just going to make sure my grades are up.”
“I’ve been having mixed feelings towards the season being cancelled,” said Malique Webb, a member of the volleyball and women’s track teams. “I was hoping for a personal comeback since my last season was cut short due to a concussion. But, personally, I believe safety comes first and prevention is better than cure.”
Deandra Small, another volleyball player, also had mixed feelings.
“I feel as though they made the right decision by cancelling the season to keep us safe,” she said. “On the other hand [sports] was also a place where student athletes could go and release some stress.”
But all student-athletes tempered their disappointment with the realization that COVID affected more than sports.Bre’cha Byrd, a basketball player, said: “We are all in this together. I am trusting God and praying that everyone will continue to wear masks and social distance.”
“The worst part about it was the lives that were lost and numerous people who were unemployed,” Roofe said. “I think ,moving forward, people will be more sanitary, be more smart about investing and saving money should anything occur like this in the future, and finally love their neighbors more.”
Harris added: “COVID impacts everyone. It makes you realize that life is bigger than yourself.”
— Junine Goodison