Elyse Graham

Elyse Graham

I’m reminded of a phrase when I reflect on what every athlete is going through in this difficult time. One special coach has said it to me over the years, but now it lays out a truth that I cannot seem to accept.

“Never take life for granted, it can change in a blink of an eye.”

Never did I take life for granted but it sure did change in a blink of an eye. I am at a complete loss for the millions of athletes around the world whose hearts have been broken due to this pandemic.

March 16, 2020, at 11:40 a.m. is when I knew my softball senior year had ended. The widespread decision to cancel all athletic competition this spring caused an enormous amount of disappointment, anger and pain for all involved.

On March 16 all students at Olean High were informed that all school and extracurricular activities were cancelled until April 30. All the seniors, not only the individuals that played a spring sport, but the rest of the Class of 2020 were in disbelief.

As the cases and closure extensions have increased over time, it has become a possibility that we may not go back to school. That means we may never be able to take the field again (the field we have been playing on since 7th grade) with our best friends or hear our names called on our last senior night.

As the days without practices and games increase, myself and other athletes find themselves adjusting to life without sports. For some, that could be permanent. For myself, I am hoping that with continued hard work and dedication, my last time to lace up my cleats is far from over.

To my fellow classmates and myself this cancellation of school and spring sports is no vacation. It is wasted time in which we are missing out creating lifelong memories. In addition, the heartbreak of the possibility of not being able to walk across the stage of OHS’s auditorium and receive my hard-earned diploma in person with my own two hands remains incomprehensible. We are all trying to remain positive during this extremely difficult time but all I keep reflecting on is what I have learned from so many …

My coaches, especially Coach (Dan) Brooks, who instilled hard work, leadership and perseverance (that has) formed me into the athlete I am today.

My parents, who dedicated themselves to support me at every game home and away.

The NYSPHSAA, which allowed me, as a sophomore, the opportunity to dream big, as the underdog, with a trip to the (New York State Final Four) in 2018.

In addition, the Big 30 organization for teaching me the value of lifelong friendships of both teammates and competitors.

When all is said and done, I sincerely hope the Class of 2020 comes out stronger, braver and kinder through all the valuable lessons we have learned.