March 12 is a day that will be long remembered by college athletes. It’s the day the NCAA announced the cancellation of all winter and spring championships because of coronavirus concerns. It’s the day Brigham Young University announced the cancellation of all university sporting events. And it’s the day senior Emily Briggs’ rugby career came to a sudden end.
Coming off a national championship, the BYU Women’s Rugby Team was prepared to defend its title. Team Captain Briggs played in the 2019 championship and wanted nothing more than to earn a repeat. The Cougars’ odds looked very good with an undefeated record, holding the entire conference scoreless and winning games by as much as 91 points.
Briggs summarized her feelings on the news in one word, “heartbroken.”
“I just feel hollow that it didn’t end the way it should,” she said. “We were looking forward to so much and it still doesn’t seem real. There are so many aspects we’re going to miss. So many little things that are going to come over time that will hurt to miss.”
However, Briggs finds positivity in the fabled story of her senior season.
Emily Briggs powers through defenders on March 7 against U of A. (Rich Running).
“I guess this is part of the legacy now,” she said. “It’s an unfortunate story, but time goes on. Next year, our girls will learn from what happened this year. They’ll create their own memories and take that national title back.”
BYU’s team is full of bright prospects, with as many as 15 juniors planning to return in the fall. Head Coach Tom Waqa is excited about the future as well. Since he started coaching at BYU in 2004, he has won four conference championships, earned one second-place finish and one national championship.
Briggs remembers when the women’s rugby team wasn’t sanctioned by BYU,
“My first interaction with the team was actually fundraising because [the team] wasn’t a part of BYU athletics then,” she said. “This taught me respect and honor. Since then, we have become a part of BYU and I’ve played every year. I love all of it.”
From humble beginnings to an emotional and abrupt end, Briggs focuses on silver linings.
“Just because the season ended doesn’t mean the team does,” she said. “I think that’s one thing that’s holding me together is that I still get to see my team. It’s hard to look on the bright side of things, but it’s best to control what you can control and then find joy in the things that you can. For example, for me, I’m not done with rugby. I’m just going to look forward to what I can do next.”
Briggs’ love for rugby and her team is evident, and the senior team captain plans to coach locally or even for the BYU team in the future.
Unfortunately, Briggs’ story isn’t unique. Thousands of athletes across the country are trying to cope with this sudden change that produced unfinished memories, empty brackets and unwrapped trophies for the 2020 season. A positive outlook and a service-orientated attitude are helping Briggs and many other athletes hang up their uniforms and look for opportunities to strengthen their sports from the sidelines.