As the severity of the coronavirus came clearly into focus, Missouri head softball coach Larissa Anderson was as prepared as she could be.


Twice before in her college coaching career, tragic events unfolded around her team.


Before moving to Columbia in the summer of 2018, Anderson coached for 17 years at Hofstra University, 30 miles from downtown New York. She doesn’t recall the exact sequence of her morning on Sept. 11, 2001, but she vividly recalls the terrorist attacks and remembers seeing both World Trade Center towers collapsing.


In the hours that followed, Anderson contacted the families of Hofstra players and assured them their daughters were OK.


"Going through the phases of grief and mourning and fear and continually to reinforce to your team that, ‘We're OK, we are family, it’s OK. Let's now center our focus on other people. Let's take care of other people,’’ Anderson said. "And the entire New York community, I mean, the entire world was mourning, but you could really feel it in New York, where people were actually holding doors for one another and very sympathetic there to what everybody was going through."


Anderson also lived on Long Island when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in October 2012. Streets were flooded and power was lost there for days.


In present day, Anderson and the Missouri softball team are doing just fine, communicating through Zoom, GroupMe and — maybe best of all — Snapchat to band together during this unusual time.


"It really keeps the atmosphere very relaxed and fun, which is what we need right now," Anderson said.


The impact of COVID-19 took the Tigers from a Southeastern Conference sweep of Mississippi in their first league series to having a canceled season within two weeks.


"I want to make sure that I'm constantly communicating to them so they know exactly where we are, what we're trying to do, making sure that everybody is healthy, their families are healthy," Anderson said. "Definitely making sure that they're getting everything that they need in order to be successful."


As part of staying in touch, players have found new sources of motivation. Learning how to prevent the spread of the virus. Catching up with loved ones. Some Tigers are helping support their families because of financial concerns, Anderson said.


Yet the team’s connection has remained strong, albeit through phones and laptops.


"Part of our message and philosophy that I have within the program is that athletics teaches you the lifetime lessons you need in order to be successful," Anderson said. "And the work ethic and the motivation and the discipline that you have on the field will carry to off the field. So I'm starting to see they're overcoming this adversity.


"We’ve faced adversity throughout (the entire time) that I've had here at Mizzou and we've had to overcome a lot and now we're putting it into a worldwide pandemic. We're overcoming different adversity and I can see that those intangibles are now carried over to the real world in their everyday life."


There is plenty on the docket for MU, the SEC and college sports as a whole to get back to normal. One of the biggest unknowns will become clear Monday when the NCAA Division I Council will vote on extending eligibility for spring sports athletes.


The vote may most affect Eli Daniel, the Tigers’ lone senior this season, because she had already begun her final year of collegiate eligibility.


"It's hard to speculate because we don't know what the ruling is going to be," Anderson said of Daniel. "So we really don't have those conversations. We never want to jump ahead because I don't want them to get too high. I don't want them to get too low. It's we're going to deal with whatever comes to us day by day.


"So right now, she's graduating, and (if) the opportunity changes, we'll have that conversation. It's disappointing for her because her season was cut short, but at the same time, we approached the season knowing that we weren't going to be eligible for the playoffs. So her season was going to end regardless. Mentally, she was prepared for that moment."


Further down the list of questions Missouri has for the NCAA is whether the postseason ban placed upon the program will carry over into 2021.


The NCAA previously stated that the ban would be imposed for the 2019-20 season, but with no softball teams having postseason play this year, there is at least some possibility that the NCAA will view the punishment as unserved.


Anderson said Friday she hasn’t received an update from Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk or the university on that specific issue since spring sports were canceled.


One of the few blessings in disguise that the coronavirus has brought Anderson is a chance to calm her usually non-stop schedule. Anderson described the past two years as her racing as a thoroughbred horse. Now she’s back to a trot.


"Honestly, I probably haven't had a break since I got the job," Anderson said. "So it's been one of those things where I can finally catch up on some life — not that I would have chosen this, but I need to catch up on a lot of things with my house and getting a little bit organized and getting a plan on where we go from here.


"I'm really able to almost decompress and spend a lot more time thinking."


The timetable for the future isn’t set, but the recharge should make Anderson primed for whatever comes next.


She understands that several members of her team have been through a gauntlet in Columbia, with coaching changes, the NCAA sanctions and now an uncompleted season.


But preparing her players for larger things has always been part of Anderson’s plan.


She did her best to guide Hofstra through Sept. 11, Hurricane Sandy and other adverse times. Maneuvering through COVID-19 is the latest challenge.


"When we were told that it's the end of our season and we can no longer play anymore, it wasn't as devastating as it was for other teams around the country because we're prepared for that. We know we can't control some of those things," Anderson said. "So it wasn't a devastation where the entire world is crashing down.


"It was that we play a sport and we have an opportunity and right now we have to sacrifice some of our personal needs for the betterment of the country. And we're willing to do that because we know every single day, we have an opportunity to play."


eblum@columbiatribune.com