• Ainslie Lee

The Waiting is the Hardest Part: Florida Gator Softball's Cheyenne Lindsey Continues to Persevere

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

Cheyenne Lindsey hasn't turned her back on her return. Courtesy of Tiffany Franco/UAA



As we enter the halfway point of 2020, most of us have learned great lessons through the trials and tribulations that have come with this year.

Many of us have brushed up our handwashing skills. Others have learned how to prosper in solitude.

But a common lesson?

Tom Petty told us, Covid-19 reminded us: The waiting is the hardest part.

But for Florida softball’s Cheyenne Lindsey, this lesson was learned over a year ago.

In just 72 hours, Cheyenne Lindsey had gone from knocking a ball into play in South Carolina, to sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office in her home state of Tennessee. 

It was then that the four-time high school state champion had learned that the waiting is the hardest part. 

Courtesy of Courtney Culbreath/UAA

Though she had already committed to continue her softball career at the University of Florida, Lindsey decided to play one final summer of softball with her travel ball team. And a trip to South Carolina for nationals was on the docket. 

The recent high school grad had just pushed a ball into play when a collision with the first baseman left her in the clay, waiting to be helped to safety. 

“All I knew was that I couldn’t walk,” Lindsey told GatorBait. “I was like, something is really wrong. It wasn’t swollen or anything, but I couldn’t put any kind of weight on my knee without falling.”

The possibility of tearing an ACL haunts the dreams of athletes. And for Lindsey, who now studies applied physiology and kinesiology at UF, every athlete’s nightmare was becoming her reality. 

Three days post-injury, Lindsey bawled as her doctor excused himself from the room. She had torn her ACL less than a month before her move-in date in Gainesville. 

“How am I going to break the news to Coach Walton?,” she asked herself. “How is he going to react? How is this going to affect my career and being able to play at the University of Florida?”

The recovery process was a long, winding road. 

After Walton gave his signee time to digest her diagnosis, he immediately connected Lindsey with the athletic training staff on campus. From there, she began her road to recovery – a road with a number of pot holes.

Just days before her scheduled surgery, Lindsey and her team of doctors discovered that she had also torn a part of her hamstring.

This meant that after surgery she would be in a straight-leg brace for six weeks. This is compared to the mere days that most ACL surgery patients spend in the brace.

As the weeks went by, they took Lindsey’s muscle mass with them.

“I lost a lot of muscle in my quad,” the Gators’ centerfielder explained. “I had to relearn how to walk and run again.”

Paired with the unthinkable task of learning how to walk, Lindsey was also navigating a new place, hundreds of miles away from her home state of Tennessee.

“It really took a toll on me mentally,” the Tennessean admitted. “But I had a really big support system to help me get through the whole entire process.”

Courtesy of Courtney Culbreath/UAA

Helping her cope was Jaimie Hoover, a Florida softball veteran. As Lindsey recalls, Hoover constantly reminded her throughout the rehab process to always find the bright side.

And come the 2020 softball season, Lindsey and Florida softball alike both found the bright side.

Defensively, Cheyenne Lindsey was found right in the middle of the action in centerfield. Yet when the Gators were at bat, Lindsey was forced to wait.

But she didn’t mind.

Batting in the nine hole comes with a stigma: You’re one of the weaker hitters on the team. But that wasn’t the case for Tim Walton and the Gators’ red hot lineup. And Lindsey couldn’t wait to prove that.

Her “coming out party” came during the opening weekend of SEC play.

As Florida hosted Auburn at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, the Tigers’ could have never imagined the firestorm of a nine-hole hitter that was coming at them.

Through the three-game weekend series, Lindsey went 8-for-11 from the batter’s box. Of those eight hits, five pushed a run across the plate for the Gators, two went for two bags and one was a triple.

Florida went on to sweep Auburn in a showing that showed just why Walton plucked Lindsey out of Volunteer territory.

“The knee really impacted her confidence more than it did her athleticism,” Walton said after the Auburn series. “That time off was not good for her and she’s just now starting to get back to playing a lot more like you think she can play.”

However, just as Lindsey was getting back in the rhythm of playing softball, like she had for years, the coronavirus continued to sweep the globe.

Just three days after her breakout, Lindsey would find herself in a familiar place: the waiting room.

After winning a midday matinee against Penn on Tuesday, and a big win over then-No. 12 Florida State, the Gators were looking forward to a weekend homestand against then No. 24 Baylor.

Except the Bears never made it to Gainesville.

Instead, the season was halted in response to Covid-19. Days later, the entire season had been scrapped.

Cheyenne Lindsey was forced to wait… again.

“I think my initial reaction was the seniors. I didn’t even worry about myself,” Lindsey told GatorBait. “I know this is a terrible situation, but at least I still have a year to try and showcase my athletic ability. But here we are, we have these seniors, and this was supposed to be their last year.”

Lindsey’s selflessness was at the forefront of the situation. But eventually, as reality began to set in, the sophomore was forced to think about what it meant for her.

“What’s going to happen?,” Lindsey asked herself. “I’ve already missed one year. Is this another year I’m going to have missed?”

Courtesy of Evan Lepak/UAA

Fortunately, the NCAA issued spring athletes an additional year of eligibility. Not only will Lindsey not have missed another season, but Florida will return a majority of its seniors.

And now, Lindsey has more hope than ever. She’s confident that all of the waiting will pay off.

“I’m just ready to see people accomplish goals that they’ve set for themselves… even myself” Lindsey says. “The possibility of being able to play again (also keeps me going). Just knowing that we might have another chance to be on that field… it may not be now, but it will be soon.”

And the truth is, we hope so. Because as Covid-19 has reminded us, the waiting is the hardest part.

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