On October 15, I had a surreal feeling, unlike anything I had felt before. The entirety of my soccer career came to an end in a single moment. As I stood in the middle of Jenison’s field, I wasn’t sad or devastated but instead stunned by the realization that I would never play another competitive soccer match. I’m not alone in this feeling, but it differs between sports and individuals.
For some individuals such as Sr. Jevic DeVries, the end came early due to injury. Toward the start of the season, DeVries was diagnosed with a concussion. For most this wouldn’t be career ending as concussions usually take an athlete out of the game for a couple of weeks, but for DeVries that wasn’t the case. This concussion was DeVries’ fifth, and for contact sports, five concussions is the end of the line.
DeVries described the pain he felt knowing that he wouldn’t be able to compete in his final season, “It was heartbreaking knowing that I’ll never get the chance to play again. This wasn’t something I could overcome, the dream was dead. Knowing that made everything football-wise just less exciting, almost. I didn’t lose interest in the sport, it just hurt knowing I couldn’t be a part of it.”
Devries said he also felt a singular moment of realization that it really was over. His moment of realization didn’t come until hours after the concussion. Following the concussion, he felt dazed and wasn’t really in the moment. It wasn’t until late that night that he was able to grip reality and realize that this would be the one that the doctor would tell him that he was done.
My feelings when the West Ottawa soccer team was knocked out of the playoffs were intense, even though it was clear we were not likely to make a deep state run. For the men’s tennis team this wasn’t the case, and making it to the state tournament fell out of reach by only a single point. One more win from any flight was all that held them from a chance at state. Sr. Paul Stryker was part of one of the doubles teams, and he knew that every one of the doubles teams would have to win if they were going to make the state tournament. Unfortunately, just prior to his own match he watched as one of his fellow doubles teams lose. He knew then that his match would be his last, but an individual regional title was still on the line.
Stryker was able to win his final match and a regional title, but the feeling was still bittersweet. “Many flights in our team could have competed for very high spots in the state and not having that chance especially after me and my partner won the region really stung.”
Sr. Jake Holstege also felt the pain at the end of the football season. Holstege wasn’t ready for the season to be over. Panthers football suffered a tough loss in their first playoff game after making a large comeback. The loss kept them from the playoff run they had hoped for, and like so many of the players, Holstege was heavy hearted.
“It was really weird thinking about how I never would be able to play football again. I’ve made so many friendships through this sport, but I’m never going to be able to gain another friend through football.” The days following the playoff loss, a heaviness seemed to hang around the players. The conversation with players was still happy and light, but no one really mentioned that football was over. Many players still seemed in denial as if they still believe that they had practice on Monday.
The West Ottawa volleyball team had a successful regular season. For Sr. Abbey Veldhof, the great regular season and the way that the team had played throughout the year overshadowed the loss that ended the season. Veldhof was still disappointed that the season was over. She knew that her team could have made a much longer run in districts, but the season still felt successful, and she was happy to be part of it.
It wasn’t until much later that the sadness set in. Veldhof said, “It took a week to really hit me. I had not played volleyball for a whole week and I knew my senior season was over. I got sad thinking about it and I just wanted to be back playing again.” Sometimes that empty feeling settles in after a week, not right after a loss. Once the gloom sets in, though, it hurts like it does for so many other athletes.
For seniors, the pain of the conclusion of a season is very real. The sports that athletes grew up playing, building friendships along the way, are suddenly done. Athletes react in similar fashion to the closure of a season: it hurts.