The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all those at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s residential campus in Prescott, Ariz., not least of those being athletes who have lost what was shaping up to be a great season. Jessica Williams is a 2020 Spring Grad studying Aeronautical Science and an Arizona native that plays for the Women’s Golf team at Embry-Riddle.
Williams has placed second in the NAIA National Championship in 2017 as a freshman at the PGA National Championship Course. She also has wins in the double digits over the course of her collegiate athletic career that would have been added to if not for the COVID-19 pandemic that has cut hers’ and dozens of others’ collegiate athletic careers short.
“It has been very disappointing especially as a senior,” says Williams. “I think there was somewhat of a knee jerk reaction initially but eventually it would have been cancelled. We only had three tournaments left and they were arguably the most important.”
Like seniors in both high school and college who would have found 2020 an important culminating time to cap their experiences, Williams lost her final tournaments as a golfer. “I think it’s hard to work hard all year and then not get to finish it out and compete at the National tournament and conference,” she says. The team felt they were on their way to great success this year. “I think we had a really strong team and were warming up to peak at the right time,” Williams reminisces.
To mitigate some of this impact, the NAIA has offered athletes affected by the COVID-19 pandemic an extra two semesters of eligibility. However, this doesn’t exactly replace the experience this year’s seniors were hoping to have. “It’s considerate they provided the option, and it’s a great option for some of the younger classes,” Williams said. “But I also think it’s hard for seniors that were so close to graduating to put all their plans on hold and now have the decision of whether to try and stay to play.”
With her extra free time repurposed from the practices she would have had, Williams has caught up on her sleep schedule and even spent some time at the courses that are still open. Unfortunately, this can’t compare to finishing out the year with her team. “I really miss competing as a team and all the travel and memories that come with it,” says Williams. Athletes and others losing important transitions in their lives are facing the harsh reality that their season won’t be wrapped up as neatly as they had planned.
As for life going back to normal, Williams hopes she can soon “enjoy sitting at a restaurant.” Many are finding the pandemic puts into perspective the things that we take for granted in our daily lives. “I think it’s unfortunate the way that it’s affected a lot of people that are struggling with bigger issues than their season getting cancelled,” says Williams. “I hope everyone stays healthy and safe, and hopefully it’s helping us all refocus on the things that really matter in life!”