Opinion: NCAA Cancellations
On March 12, the NCAA cancelled all remaining winter and spring championships.
This was not just massive news to the expectant college basketball fans waiting for another NCAA tournament. This was the loss of hundreds of thousands’ livelihood. This was the loss of a season these many student athletes had trained their lives for. This was the loss of time. Time with teammates. Time with competitors. Time improving yourself. Time proving yourself. Time supporting others, time beating others, time winning, time losing, time competing.
Regardless of logic, and the obvious reason for this so far-reaching and impactful decision, the current spread of COVID-19 and our duty to contain it, there will be emotions felt. There are emotions felt. Anger is a given when your passion, as these sports are for so many NCAA athletes, is taken from you. Frustration is a given at the upheaval and dissolution of your plan, of the path you set out on. And confusion only exacerbates these feelings as it sets in all around us in this uncertain time.
The NCAA posted an open letter to their student athletes on their website on March 27 to help ameliorate these strong emotions, and to further explain that “This is not about sports.” Hopefully this letter will be a comfort to those still recovering from the blow this cancellation was. One thing that is certain, is that the NCAA’s communication with and focus on the safety of its student athletes is their primary concern, a fact that we should be thankful for.
Posted below is the NCAA’s letter:
An Open Letter to NCAA Student-Athletes
From the members of the NCAA Division I, II and III Student-Athlete Advisory Committees
March 27, 2020
We are living in an uncertain and emotional time. Thousands of student-athletes feel heartbroken, sad, angry, confused and many more emotions. Everyone is experiencing unforeseen challenges and trying to navigate uncharted territory while facing major, life-changing and imperative sacrifices. While the cancellation of a senior season or a year of eligibility is monumental, as student-athletes, we are doing our part to be responsible citizens in the setting of a widespread COVID-19 outbreak in the United States and throughout the world.
This is not about sports.
The NCAA exists because of student-athletes. The decision to cancel all remaining winter and spring championships was made in the best interest of our collective society and community. Such an unprecedented and monumental decision was not made to disregard the student-athlete experience but rather to protect it.
Let us work together to use our athletics platform to spark a national effort to be supportive and kind neighbors and friends. A couple of weeks ago, we were rivals vying for the same championship trophy; this week we are all teammates, supporting each other in the face of uncertainty. Getting your sport taken away from you is like a sudden, unforeseen terrible injury, and like all injuries, there are emotional symptoms and disorders that may develop that need to be addressed and managed with support, empathy and love. Let us all use this opportunity as a time to grow personally, to pick up the phone to call loved ones we may not be able to be with, and to express gratitude for what we do have.
As collegiate athletes, we have all persevered through challenges, injury and heartbreak, and we have come out even stronger on the other side. Now is the time to tap into the grit we have all developed through our athletics experience and to realize our identity is greater than our sport. Sports are what we do, but they are not who we are.
For many, sports have always been the escape from heartbreak, and now, especially for seniors, the sacrifice of not playing our sport is what breaks our heart. To our fellow student-athletes and everyone else in this country, thank you for making an enormous sacrifice. Your sacrifice is not in vain; it protects millions of people around the world, including our family, friends and loved ones. Our collective sacrifices can save countless lives.
We see you. We appreciate you. We are you. You matter.
While there may be a lot of things outside our control right now, one thing we all can control is to be kind and supportive to one another, to do our part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to be patient with ourselves as we heal our broken hearts. We will all get through this, as long as we work together as one team.
We are #UnitedAsOne.
For those student-athletes who have competed for the last time, we encourage you to view the “After the Game” resources on ncaa.org.
For those student-athletes who may be feeling isolated during this time, please seek help through:
These resources and recommendations shared by the NCAA Sport Science Institute.
Your campus health centers, in coordination with your athletics department.
For students of color, The Steve Fund and Crisis Text Line provides 24/7, free and confidential support for mental health and wellbeing. Text STEVE to 741741.
For the LGBTQ community, The Trevor Project provides 24/7 counseling for crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Call 866-488-7386, text START to 678678 or message a counselor online here.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7 crisis counseling and support to individuals experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Call 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for individuals in distress. Call 800-273-8255 or chat here.
A list of international suicide hotlines are available here.