Aftershock: The sickness that stopped sports

The coronavirus halts sporting activities in Hilo and across the world

Staff Writer Nick Wagner

Throughout the past couple months and for the better part of this year, the world has been struck by a pandemic otherwise known as COVID-19. The impact of this virus has been felt globally as schools shut down, events are cancelled, and entire cities are told to stay at home as the pandemic becomes worse and worse.

With this as well we have seen a multitude of athletic events cancelled throughout the world, and on March 12 the PacWest conference sent out word that the conference would be suspending games until March 30. Due to the rapid growth and fear of COVID-19, however, the conference changed their decision only four days after the original suspension, stating that the rest of competition -including spring championships- for all sports were immediately cancelled.

The conference states that with representation from all 12 schools who participate within the conference, they were able to come to a unanimous decision to bring the events to a stop, citing the importance in the safety of the fans, student-athletes, coaches, and staff that would be on hand at the event.

The NCAA followed the same steps soon after by cancelling the rest of their spring sports and winter championships.

The NCAA’s decision ultimately affected those athletes in Hilo and raised the ultimate suspicion that it was possibly their last year of playing, even though they weren’t able to play the rest of their season. The baseball, softball, men and women’s tennis, as well as men and women’s golf season’s ended in a disappointing fashion as the coronavirus forced activities to be cancelled.

But the fears of the athletes were put to rest when on March 29 when the NCAA was able to grant an extra year of eligibility to those athletes affected during the spread of the pandemic. While this could be seen as a win for some athletes, it is still heartbreaking for those athletes who choose not to come back, losing their last year of competition.

Those among the athletes that won’t be returning to UH Hilo are Vulcan softballers Brinell “Makamae” Kaleikini and Billi Derleth. Kaleikini even described the decision as heartbreaking, telling me,

“The decision that has been very heavy on my heart these past few weeks, on top of everything that is going on with the rest of the world.”

Teammate Derleth mirrored Kaleikini’s feelings by adding that,

“More than anything I would love to return, but I can’t because I’ve done everything I can education-wise at UH Hilo.”

We can look no further than the Vulcan softball team when looking at the effects that the pandemic has caused within the sporting community. Head Coach Callen Perreira of the Vulcan softball team, who is currently home in Las Vegas due to the impact of the pandemic, writes to me that the Vulcan softball squad plans to return four of their six seniors during the 2020-2021 season so that they are able to finish out their senior year which was given back to them by the NCAA.

One can’t help to think how this sudden event might impact an athlete in the upcoming seasons. Returning senior Valerie Alvarado of the softball team assured that she would come back a better player, saying,

“Continuing with schooling and as an athlete only makes me hungrier to finish my goals of the 2020 season.”

The rise of the pandemic has not only put an end to the collegiate season but has also put a halt to all major sports worldwide. This includes all major soccer leagues delayed, the NBA basketball season delayed, opening day of the MLB delayed, the NFL Draft being conducted virtually (see “...” pg. 29), and the first and only time that the NCAA basketball tournament known as March Madness has been cancelled since the event started in 1939. For the first time since World War II, the Olympic games have been postponed, and the Wimbledon tennis tournament has been cancelled.

An event like this is bigger than any sporting event or statistic that can be thrown out there. More than 45,000 people worldwide have died from this pandemic and the number will sadly continue to grow in the coming weeks. In this case, some student athletes were unable to live out their last year playing competitively. However, it seems that the actions that were taken by groups like the NCAA have helped in limiting the anguish and pain that we as a society are experiencing with this pandemic.