Everyone on the planet has probably had to make some sort of difficult decision when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic. Uncertainty and doom loomed heavily for a while, and some things just weren’t as obvious as the situation many find themselves in now. For men’s tennis senior Austin Burkhart, a difficult decision had to be made as to whether he would make the effort to play one final year of tennis at Greenville University or let the virus hang up the racket for him.
Last spring was one many will never forget. Athletes who were just beginning their seasons will certainly never forget. What seemed like something that was not going to be our problem became our biggest one, and as the nation began to shut down, so did sports. The athletes of spring were met with the unfortunate news that they will not participate in another match, game, or race this year. For the men’s tennis team who was getting some spring training games in Hilton Head, SC at the time, they were defeated with the terrible news that GU will move to online classes, inevitably ending their season in the middle of a match. Burkhart, who believed he was playing his final match ever, was completely shaken by the news. “Finding out during a match that it was going to be your last as a college athlete was hard to take and a little overwhelming.” He also mentioned how fast everything moved during the week down in South Carolina. He said that he, “never thought it was something that would impact us.” As schools closed, the inevitable became clearer to them.
Luckily for Burkhart, along with all athletes that lost a year of sports to the pandemic, the NCAA stated that they will grant an extra year of eligibility to all spring athletes. Being able to recapture the year and make it count was something that caught Burkhart’s eye quickly. “Once the NCAA came out and said that all athletes in their spring season would get one extra year of eligibility, I knew I wanted to make this work if possible.” While the obvious choice was to play, the reality of life was not far behind him, and “bills became a really real thing.” Burkhart is currently teaching junior high science at Mulberry School District, and recently married, so life is in a pretty good place for him. However, in order to make tennis in the spring work, some hurdles were in the path of this season.
As far as the spring season goes, Burkhart says he is just happy to be able to have a chance to play once more. “If this season only brings a couple of matches or we only play conference [matches], I would be extremely excited for that opportunity.” Let’s hope this season is staying this year because Burkhart plans to lead this group of men to the goal that has been all along: the conference title. Along with being a great player with many successes pasted on his tenure as an athlete at GU, he is also a great leader through his work ethic. Tyler Blume, a junior tennis player, had this to say about Burkhart’s leadership. “He has always had the drive to be the best. Whenever he is out on the court, he is going to give his all. And that is something that the team needs.” Burkhart will look to carry on the winning culture he has manifested in himself to this team he now leads.
Media by Seth Isringhausen.