Shock: Rittman says softball team is hurting after abrupt end to inaugural season

by - Senior Writer -
Clemson players react to the sweep of Virginia
Clemson players react to the sweep of Virginia

Shock. That’s the word that Clemson softball coach John Rittman used to describe the two-hour span last week that saw his team go from getting ready to board a bus and hit the road for Georgia Tech to hearing that their season was over.

The Tigers had vaulted out to a 19-8 overall record and were 5-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference after the first two conference series of the season. The team was starting to jell and was looking forward to the season’s first ACC road trip, a three-game set in Atlanta.

The equipment was packed and the buses were ready to roll when Rittman got the word to not leave Clemson. Two hours later, the season was over.

“Obviously, a lot has transpired in the last week. We are very disappointed that our season ended and it ended pretty abruptly. We were getting ready to board a bus to Georgia Tech and we were told not to board the bus,” Rittman said Friday. “About an hour later we were told that our season was canceled. At the time, it was very disconcerting. As a coach, you're put in a tough situation to tell your team that the season is over. At the time, we didn't quite understand everything that was going on in the world, and when you're engaged in your season sometimes you get so locked in that you don't pay attention to a lot of things that are going on.

“But we had a meeting with our administration about the coronavirus and the things that could happen in the future. Probably for me, it became alarming when the entire country of Italy had shut down and Clemson required all of their international students to come home. We knew this was a possibility but last week this slapped us in the face. But in hindsight, we are thankful for the decisions that were made at the time. As one administrator told me, it's better to overreact now and look stupid than under-react and pay the price later on.”

Rittman said it was tough having to look his players in the face and tell them that the season was over.

“They didn't take it well. We were getting ready to board the bus to Georgia Tech and had to call everybody in and tell them we weren't going on the trip,” he said. “So we had a relatively short meeting, just explaining that everything was on hold. And then the tough meeting was about an hour later when the NCAA announced that the spring seasons had been canceled. And that was a somber moment for our one senior and really all of our players to comprehend. In a matter of two hours, we went from getting ready to board a bus to our season was over. I think shock is the best word I can use right. We were literally in shock.”

Hopes were high for the inaugural season for the program, and for it to end as suddenly as it did was painful for everyone involved, but Rittman hopes everyone is better for the experience.

“This season was a long time coming. Our coaches and staff and administration had put a lot of effort and energy and time into making this season a reality,” Rittman said. “And to get off to such an excellent start and have the crowd and the fan support that we had was absolutely amazing. The stadium worked out great. We had an electric atmosphere in every game that we played in that stadium, and for that to end abruptly was a shock. There is no easy way around dealing with adversity like this except that you know we are all going to grow better and society is going to grow better and as student-athletes and coaches we know that adversity is something we have to overcome. Not only on the field but in life. And if anything this is a great life lesson for our players. It doesn't ease the pain of the season ending so abruptly but I think we will all learn from this and be better for it going forward.”

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