HARRISONBURG, Va. -- Coaches often preach to their teams about dealing with adversity and overcoming challenges.
"We talk to our team a lot about difficult times and hard times," said Loren LaPorte, who is the head coach for James Madison softball. "Staying positive through it all and finding a way out of it."
Throughout a season, tough times are bound to happen but few, if any, coaches could've predicted the impact COVID-19 has had on the sports industry.
"That has been the hardest thing through all of this, is being separated," said LaPorte.
JMU softball, along with all over spring sports at James Madison, has seen its 2020 season cancelled. The Dukes were off to a strong start with a 13-6 overall record and six wins over Power Five opponents. However, the season was shut down and student-athletes sent home in an effort to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
LaPorte and the Dukes learned their season was suspended last week when they were in Florida preparing for a weekend of games.
"We were actually practicing at Jacksonville University when I got the phone call from our administrator saying that we have to get back to Virginia," said LaPorte. "So we were with each other and we kind of had a team meeting. We didn’t know a lot at the time. Everything was happening really fast and it was really hard to process and everything wasn’t really set in stone. So we told them what we knew and then we drove back to Virginia on Friday and they had to drop their stuff off and go immediately to their permanent residence on Saturday.”
Last Friday, the Colonial Athletic Association announced that all spring sports were cancelled for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic school year, effectively ending JMU's season.
With the season over in a flash, LaPorte says seniors struggled to deal with the news. However, the NCAA announced eligibility relief is appropriate for spring athletes, meaning seniors could return next season. Specific details about eligibility have yet to be announced by the NCAA. Outfielder Kate Gordon and pitcher/utility Oddicci Alexander are two of the best players in JMU softball history and part of the 2020 senior class.
"I am confident and I hope that they can get another year," said LaPorte. "Right now we don't know anything as far as logistics go as far as getting that year of eligibility back but all we can do is stay positive and hope for the best."
In the meantime, the focus is on academics for current student-athletes while LaPorte spends time watching video of prospective recruits and staying busy with email. She also says she's taking advantage of the extra time with her family, including her four-year-old son.
Moving forward, there's a lot to be determined for softball and all athletics at JMU in regards to COVID-19. But until all the questions are answered, the Dukes are doing their best to keep an optimistic mindset.
"We talk about failure a lot and getting through it," said LaPorte. "Try to stay positive through it all."