COVID-19. Two words that will forever be cemented in my memory. Not only because it is a global pandemic, but it has also taken away something so important to me – softball.
We were six weeks into the season, getting ready for the last games of Spring Break before heading back to Columbus to start Big Ten play. We were playing well and couldn’t wait for our next game. But suddenly it seemed like the world stopped spinning. Coach Kelly called a team meeting and let us know the Big Ten had chosen to suspend our season. My senior season was over. I cried for what felt like days, my favorite thing in the world had just been snatched away from me. It was heartbreaking.
Softball has been my favorite thing ever since I was a little girl. I was the kid that would roll around in the dirt after games and made sure my jersey was stained when I gave it to my dad to wash. I was the kid that would cry when we lost because my teammates were there to have fun and all I wanted to do was win. I was the kid that was always searching for competition in everything I did. I was the kid that dreamed of playing softball for as long as I could at the highest level.
Reminiscing on life before college, 14-year-old me had made the biggest and best decision of my life thus far. I chose Ohio State. My dream of playing Division I softball had come true and I would be playing at my dream school. Yes, this California kid’s dream school was and still is Ohio State and it has been everything I hoped it would be.
The Ohio State University has been my home for the past four years. As a freshman, I came in wide-eyed, ready to take on whatever was thrown at me. Let me be the first to tell you, my collegiate career has not been what I expected or what I wanted it to be. Through all my trials and tribulations, I still find myself loving Ohio State, the athletic program, my teammates and all the lifelong friendships and memories I have made in my time here.
For a while, it seemed like COVID-19 had taken all of that away from me. Like it had taken away my ability to finish college the way I wanted and when I was supposed to.
A lot went through my head when I found out that the NCAA had chosen to reward all spring athletes with another year of eligibility. I had this new opportunity to finish my career how I wanted, but there was also the fact that I’m graduating soon and had been thinking about my life after college for quite some time. There was more than softball to consider.
It was extremely appealing that the NCAA was giving us the opportunity to finish on our own terms. I love Ohio State and I love playing softball. When it came down to making a decision, I followed my gut just like I did when I was 14. I did it then and I’m doing it again now. I’m still choosing to represent the Scarlet and Gray as a student-athlete.
I can’t put into words how thankful I am for the Ohio State Athletics Department, Gene Smith and my coaching staff for being nothing but supportive and patient with me as I made my decision. I can’t wait to get back to Buckeye Field and show Buckeye Nation why I chose to stay. I hope you’re ready Buckeye Nation. I’m coming back.
The dream lives on. Go Bucks!
– Carley Gaskill #23