I am a self-aware human being, and I know being short-fused can be applicable to me. I am also familiar with the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There is no fluidity when it comes to moving through these stages. When you think you are done with one, it comes back with a vengeance and you have to navigate it all over again.

I am a collegiate women’s lacrosse coach. On Thursday, March 12, during a staff meeting where we were told spring sports were being canceled for the season, I was frantically sending a group text calling for a team meeting. It was a race against a UMaine System email that could be sent out at any moment, and I didn’t want this information to come from an email.

Bethany Lebel

As I entered the locker room with red, puffy eyes, the silence was loud and their eyes began to match mine as I broke the news. I remember holding my lone senior as she sobbed and I remember hugging each player, not knowing when we might get together again.

Winter sports ended before national championships were claimed and spring sports were canceled across the nation. In a matter of 48 hours, I went from being scheduled to play two games over the weekend to telling my team we wouldn’t get to reach our potential.

I am not alone in this experience. Every coach has a story and will remember this day in detail for years to come.

With the loss of a season, there’s no closure, no adjustments or improvements. The rug is swept from underneath you. And with loss inevitably comes grief.

Currently, I am at anger.

I came across an article on the Sun Journal Sports Twitter entitled, “With no spring practices, UMaine football forced to adapt.”

My heart rate elevated and anger filled my veins. I clicked the link and read anyway.

The amount of cares I have to give about UMaine football losing its spring ball season is less than zero. I care more about the loss of winter and spring sport competitive seasons than I do about UMaine’s precious spring ball. I’m being honest when I say losing spring football isn’t actually a big deal.

Let’s talk about being forced to adapt, and let’s talk about the losses that are a big deal.

It’s a big deal and a forced adaptation that senior student-athletes had their seasons cut short, while some didn’t get to touch the field or put a uniform on.

It’s a big deal and a forced adaptation that seniors had to say their goodbye to professors, classmates, advisers, friends and teammates in a matter of hours instead of months.

It’s a big deal and a forced adaptation that students and professors who chose an in-person teaching and learning experience have to formulate plans to teach and learn online.

It’s a big deal and a forced adaptation that seniors may not have a traditional graduation. They may not get to wear their caps and gowns, shake the president’s hand, or celebrate with their families, peers, faculty and staff.

Coaches across the country — under forced adaptation — have done so gracefully. There have been last minute celebrations of seniors during final team practices, team dinners, social media posts — all trying to make the best of something so out of our control. Why are those stories not being covered?

But you know, I get it. I get there is not a lot else going on besides social distancing, washing your hands and countless COVID-19 updates.

Maybe it isn’t fair to compare. (Note: this is bargaining. See how grief works?)

But there is a bigger picture here, and narrowing in on UMaine’s football program was the wrong move. Not to mention, high school seniors are still in limbo with what’s already been taken at the college level.

In the meantime, I’ll just be sitting here in my anger stage of grief before the next wave hits me.

And who knows, maybe the wave of acceptance will wash over me next.

Bethany Lebel is the head women’s lacrosse coach and assistant women’s soccer coach at UMaine Farmington. She lives in Wilton.


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