Editor’s note: Joelle DeAngelo is a three-sport standout at Lawrence High School. Entering her senior year, DeAngelo wrote down her thoughts on how the pandemic has affected her athletic career and how she has chosen to respond.

The spring shutdown was uncomfortable for everyone. We were disappointed, upset, confused, pissed off, and so much more. The most frustrating part wasn’t just losing the season, the frustrating part was realizing all the hours spent training during the off-season wouldn’t be given an outlet.

This past winter, I joined our school’s wrestling team. I often get asked, “How did that happen?” Well, I had a goal for my lacrosse season: I wanted to be stronger and faster than everyone on the field. Joining the wrestling team provided that opportunity, through hard work and dedication. When school would end, I’d rush to the weight room to work on lifting and strength. After the lift, I would rush to wrestling practice, where I was constantly pushing my limits.

Lawrence High School girls’ soccer standout Joelle DeAngelo enters her senior season determined to leave a legacy even if games are not played this autumn.

Not once did it cross my mind to stop, or quit, because the reason I started was for a lacrosse season to thrive in.

It was hard to accept that all this off-season work would be going towards nothing. In an athlete’s eyes, the off-season is a game changer—it’s blood, sweat and tears. It’s what shapes the athlete to be the best they can be on a real field on game day. The off-season is raw, breaking down your weak spots, working on them so by the time the season comes around it’s a skill to use in your favor instead of a weakness against you.

As athletes, we are trained to separate the things we cannot control from the things we can control. For example, you’d be able to control your attitude, how you handle your reaction, your skill on the field. Things out of your control are the weather, referees making bad calls, injuries, and in our case, a pandemic.

The problem we faced wasn’t lack of care for a season, the problem was that no matter what we could have done, it was out of our control, and that lack of control left us feeling helpless. After months of accepting the destiny of no spring 2020 season, it woke me up to realize that if there is any way I can get my girls on a soccer field during the upcoming fall season, I will. The difference between the spring season and the fall season is that the world is not shut down anymore. With the proper attention and leaders, there can be ways to ensure the outcome of a season and much more. There’s still so much uncertainty but there are just as many solutions we haven’t figured out yet.

As a rising senior and an aspiring soccer player, my final season with my high school is this fall. Early on in the summer, the seniors held many meetings together, we decided that not being able to compete in a season would be unimaginable. So, we started working on solutions for summer practices and creative ideas of different ways to workout so the girls still had a set schedule. We created a training log, so you could log what type of workout you did on a shared document with the team. This would introduce the seniors’ competitive mindset to the underclassmen.

Encouraging each girl to work hard and consistently give it their all, that’s what we as seniors want. It was important to us for the incoming freshman to get an idea of what we as seniors are about. Since they’ve never experienced a high school season, they don’t know what it’s like to not have summer lifts, followed by soccer practice in early mornings. By creating our log, we’re able to still give them that hope and feeling of a season.

In the big picture, if our season is cancelled, our girls’ soccer program will remember us differently than any other senior class. We’ll be remembered as problem solvers for not taking no as an answer. We’ll be remembered as fighters, that even though the times are tough, you have to push through because giving up is not an option. As unfortunate as it would be to not participate in a final senior season, I would know it wasn’t because we didn’t want one.

We have to accept the things we cannot control, but the class of 2021 is not done here yet. I have the most faith in our class and soccer program, because if there’s a will there’s a way.