Student athletes faced with tough decisions amid COVID-19 schedule changes

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many aspects of society, one of which being just how large a role sports have played into the everyday lives of average Americans. Whether it be watching them or playing them, America was hungry for the return of sports. Although many professional sports leagues have resumed play with limited or no fans, colleges and universities across the country have either canceled or postponed the seasons of fall activities entirely, Concordia College being no exception. 

With the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference electing to postpone fall sports until the spring semester, student athletes have been put in an unfamiliar situation. Fall athletes are faced with an offseason that will span over a year barring any future cancellations. Simply staying in shape can be an obstacle for most athletes in an extended offseason like the one they are in now, but a number of them are being forced to make difficult decisions about whether or not they will be involved in sports this year. There are no athletic scholarships in NCAA DIvision III athletics, but competing at this level provides students with the opportunity to continue their involvement in the sports they love. 

Student athletes like senior Abigail Christenson have been forced to make difficult decisions while navigating his way through college during a pandemic.

“It’s one big reason why I came to Concordia,” Christenson said of her opportunity to play volleyball. “I love the sport and I just knew I wanted to keep playing it.”

Nathan Leitner is another student athlete who chose to come to Concordia to continue his athletic career. Leitner, a sophomore, played both football and baseball his first year as a Cobber. But with football and baseball now taking place in the same semester, he was forced to make a choice. Leitner had the option of working out with both teams this fall and continuing to play both baseball and football in the spring semester.

When considering this option that he and other multi-sport athletes at Concordia face, he said, “It’s putting a lot of stress on two-sport athletes to play both sports and do schoolwork.” 

Although balancing an additional sport on top of schoolwork next semester would be challenging, Leitner considered it, but in the end opted to forego this football season to focus on baseball.

“There’s still hope we can have a legit baseball season that feels normal,” Leitner said.

For Christenson, the postponement of fall athletics complicated her plan of playing the sport she loves in maroon and gold for one last season. Before March, Christensen was planning on playing her fourth and final season of volleyball at Concordia while being on pace to graduate at the end of the fall semester.

Unlike Leitner, staying for the spring semester in 2021 was not part of Christenson’s plans, so she was faced with an ultimatum of her own: graduate in December but give up on playing volleyball or enroll for an extra semester of classes. She estimated the price of tuition for the additional semester would be upwards of $6,000.

“I would probably have to take out more student loans,” she said. “My dad lost his job because of COVID, so he can’t really help me financially in this situation.” 

Christenson ultimately decided that it would be in her best interest to graduate in December and not have the chance to play volleyball this year. She said there were two occasions where she was upset about the situation: “when I found out the season was moving to the spring,” as well as “when I had to tell the team that I had to quit.” Volleyball was where Christenson says she met her best friends during her time at Concordia. “I make friends in my classes too, but in volleyball it’s just different.” 

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