While the world attempts to wait out the spread of COVID-19, each Texas A&M softball player has a prescribed list of personal workouts from the coaching staff to help them stay in playing shape.
Senior Kendall Potts, who just had her NCAA-granted sixth year of eligibility cut short because of the coronavirus, has had a hard time getting off her College Station apartment’s couch.
“I’ve ran twice in the last week and I realized yesterday that, pretty much, I’ve just been sitting around watching Netflix,” Potts said. “I was looking around my apartment and I just really haven’t done anything in three days. It’s hard to kind of have a driving desire to get up and do something when it’s like, ‘What am I doing it for?’”
Most college seniors in spring sports have a glimmer of hope on the horizon. On March 13, the NCAA Division I council coordination committee announced that eligibility relief is appropriate for spring sports athletes. The committee will discuss details and vote on the measure Monday.
But Potts doesn’t have much optimism about returning for another season at A&M.
Early in her third season at Baylor, Potts began pitching with numbness in her hand, which started showing signs of discoloration. Eventually, she was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and underwent season-ending surgery to have a bone removed from her ribs, among several other small procedures.
After that 2017 season, Potts was released from Baylor’s squad due to injury. That led to a roller coaster rehabilitation period in 2018, while finishing up her degree at Baylor. Potts eventually joined the Aggie squad in 2019 with two years of eligibility remaining and started pursuing her master’s degree in sports management.
In her first year with the Aggies, Potts went 12-13 with a 3.14 ERA and a team-leading 86 strikeouts.
In 11 games this season, Potts went 5-5 with a 4.63 ERA in 11 appearances. Aside from normal wear and tear that’s a hangover effect of her various surgeries, she said her arm felt good.
Now the thought of what the 24-year-old pitcher’s future might hold causes emotion to creep into her voice.
“If the NCAA gives everybody an extra year of eligibility, are they going to give me a seventh year?” Potts said. “I’ve extended my career already past what the NCAA deems necessary, I guess. I feel like other people have more of an opportunity to actually do that. I’m supposed to graduate in May with a master’s degree that I only got because I did it to extend my softball career. What else can I do?”
Preemptively, Potts has begun looking at other master’s programs she could begin work towards should she be allowed to play another year, such as sports pedagogy or digital visualization. But those programs have bachelor degree prerequisites that she did not achieve at Baylor, which would prevent her from jumping directly into them.
Continuing her current path of study seems unlikely as well.
“I can’t imagine Texas A&M University would let me pursue a doctorate degree for a year — because there was no way I would actually finish it — to play softball, you know?” Potts said. “There’s just so many questions that I just don’t know. I’m just overwhelmed to the point that I’m blank.”
For her part, Potts is ready to enter the workforce in her dream role as a college pitching coach. But with college sports in hiatus, there are no openings at the moment. And with a master’s degree almost in hand, graduate assistant positions would not work for her.
“Right now, it’s complicated,” Potts said. “Say I decide to move on. What am I going to do? Everybody is thinking about the coronavirus situation. They’re not looking to hire anybody right now.”
Potts will continue to run and keep her arm in shape throughout College Station’s shelter-in-place order, she said. She’ll also finish her coursework and take time out for herself to play with her dog and continue to practice her love for drawing. By the time softball teams get to practice together again, she might have a whole gallery of art ready to exhibit, she joked.
She also is trying not to think too much about her future that for the present seems out of her control.
“The world is on fire and I’m just sitting here saying, ‘This is fine,’” she said with a laugh.