A Reflection: The Season That Wasn’t
By Lauren Hoffman, Head Softball Coach and Assistant Director of Athletics
One week passed, two weeks passed, then a month and then another. Just like that, it was May 13, and assistant coach Kelsey Steiner and I were holding our first ever virtual “senior day.” This, obviously, was not how the 2020 Mercersburg softball season was supposed to end.
The start of the 2020 season brought us a lot of excitement. Heading into the preseason, we had two seniors who had been with the program for four years. We had a promising 10th-grade class with some experience under their belts, and we had a handful of returners and newcomers to add to the mix. The girls were working hard and getting ready for our Spring Break trip to Tampa, FL. As the girls left campus for the first part of break, we told them to enjoy time with their friends and family, and to be ready to be softball players when we next saw them.
Fast forward to March 10, where we were all together at BWI Airport getting ready to take off for Tampa. The excitement and energy level was high; we were going to sunny Florida! Even with COVID-19 concerns looming, we had a great week planned for training and team building. But less than 24 hours after touching down in Florida, I received a phone call from the school that COVID-19 was developing at a faster rate than expected and the Mercersburg campus was shutting down for an additional two weeks. Two days later, the closure was extended to an additional four weeks.
I remember saying to Kelsey, “This is going to be a tough conversation,” as so many different thoughts raced through my head. I didn’t know where to start. I, myself, was trying to process that there was a chance this thing would end our season completely, as much as I didn’t want to think that way. We put so much time and effort into making each season better than the last that I didn’t want to believe what was happening around us.
We shared the news, and as expected, there were tears—lots of them. I knew our players would have questions and would want answers, but I also knew there was so much uncertainty that I couldn’t provide them with all the answers. But if there’s anything that we as coaches could do, it was to lead them. To be a role model for them. To be that extra shoulder to lean on. To tell them to soak up the remaining days in Florida because, in reality, it could be their last time together as a team. And luckily for us, the girls embraced the message. They embraced each other. It was amazing to watch.
To start a season but not finish it is something I’ve never been a part of; not as a player, not as a coach. How could we go to Florida and come back to campus on March 15 with the possibility of never stepping on our field again? It was the strangest feeling, and it left me empty. And now, when I reflect on why those feelings came about, it’s because of one simple thing: the 11 girls who put on a Mercersburg softball uniform.
So, how do I define “the season that wasn’t?” That’s the easy part. I miss the everyday interaction, the everyday grind with the girls and with Kelsey. I miss watching them grow as softball players and I miss watching them develop into the wonderful young women that they are becoming. Wins and losses? Those are irrelevant. When I see the lightbulb go on in their heads after a drill, or note how far they’ve come since the beginning of the season or of their careers, it truly is one of the most remarkable and rewarding feelings a coach can have. That’s what I miss—the relationships and the bond the girls form with not only each other, but with their coaches, and the bond that we coaches create with them. If I’m being honest, the first two weeks without having them on campus was not easy. Without having them on campus, a part of me was missing. They, as much as they might not know it, have such an impact on who I am and how I coach them.
Lauren Hoffman has served as an assistant director of athletics and Mercersburg’s head softball coach since 2016-2017. A former two-sport college athlete, she is a graduate of Union College and Canisius College.