On Oct. 9, when President Fiorentino announced the reconsideration for spring athletics, many athletes and coaches were given hope that they could, in fact, play this school year. In the President’s email, he stated that Council of Trustees Chairperson Senator Tomlinson had urged the university to reconsider the decision. That very well may be true, and I am sure the senator impacted the situation. However, there is a student athlete who took action on the same day of the original announcement and gathered quite a bit of support.
Her name is Nicolette Harrison, a second-year midfielder on the WCU women’s soccer team. On Oct. 7, Harrison started a petition on Change.org, a passionate cry out to the university to take the voices of student athletes into consideration. The description of the petition argues that other universities have been able to figure out a safe way to continue sports and that athletes have given their all to their respective sport and do not have much time left.
Harrison talked about her thoughts when posting the petition:
“Although I wrote and posted the petition, I am just one voice of so many athletes that feel that way. I saw my teammates, along with myself, cry on the Zoom call where our coaches told us about the news from President Fiorentino. As soon as that Zoom call ended, we immediately were brainstorming ideas of how we could get our voices heard.”
Harrison continued, “We knew the sooner we spoke up, the better. The whole team jumped on this quickly, and we all shared it on social media, with friends, family and other athletes. It felt like all athletes, even ones who don’t attend West Chester, had a huge support system fighting right there with us. Our reach even extended to other PSAC schools and universities in the area. Teams we compete against stood behind us in our desire to be able to play. It was extremely powerful to see so many people sign and comment.”
Harrison also shared her feelings on when the fall season was cancelled back in July:
“My initial reaction to the cancellation of fall sports back in July was extreme disappointment. The minute we heard back in March that we wouldn’t be returning for our spring season, I was frustrated, but I understood it at that time. I continued to put in work. I trained so hard. Some days, I was training twice a day because I wanted to stay ready for the fall season. To hear in July that we wouldn’t have a fall season was a hard pill to swallow. I had so many questions: Do I keep training this hard? Will I burn out? How will I stay connected with my teammates? At that point in July, I just wanted to be with my team more than ever. I was missing putting in work with them both on and off the field and how we pushed each other to be better in all aspects. They are the reason I continued and continue to keep working hard. I want to show up ready for them when we do get that chance to be on the field together.”
I asked Harrison about how the fall has been without a season as well:
“Without the structure of practice and games, I don’t feel myself. My experience has been close to paralyzing. Due to online classes, my screen time is close to eight hours every day. Before, if I had a stressful day at school, the best thing for me was to see my team and play the game I love. I miss the unity of women’s soccer and the feeling of being a big family, as well as the vibrancy that athletics at West Chester brought to college life.”
Additionally, she talked about how the team has stayed in touch:
“Thankfully, our team has stayed connected through weekly Zoom meetings, social media and our group chat. We have been active by holding each other accountable and trusting we are putting in the work individually. Also, our coaches can assign us a certain number of hourly workouts a week that need to be completed using the honor system.”
Harrison had this to add:
“As discouraging and disappointing as this fall season and the decisions leading up to our spring season have been, it was a huge light to see the support the petition gathered. It means the world to athletes to have so many people stand behind us. We are optimistic that the administration will do everything they can to get all athletes back to playing their sport.”
The petition can be found here, at https://www.change.org/p/president-of-west-chester-university-allowing-athletic-competition.
Tyler Grace is a fourth-year economics and finance major. TG885739@wcupa.edu