In early June, the majority of sports conferences under U Sports, the governing body of university sports in Canada, cancelled games and championships for the fall semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But for the athletes affected, the routines built do not stop. Instead, they had to find creative solutions around the restrictions.
“We were forced to develop a new way of training virtual online as a team, but even then, it just didn’t feel good enough as an athlete to be training from inside your home,” said Abdallah El-Chanti, a midfielder with Ryerson University’s men’s soccer team.
In addition to soccer, some of the sports cancelled are football, rugby, cross-country and baseball.
El-Chanti started to wake up earlier than normal just to run and get the feel of a soccer ball at his feet, but since the gradual reopening of fields, he’s been able to train with a small group of players.
“As an athlete, you have to be innovative, you learn that on the field of play,” El-Chanti said. “Not everything works out the way you want it to regardless of whatever tactics the coach makes, so I think it just took some adjustment to be able to find new and creative ways of training.”
As of late July, Quebec’s conference was the only one in U Sports to not cancel fall athletics.
It’s even tougher for Adam Strauch, a pitcher on Western University’s baseball team. Baseball can only be played during the spring and summer months.
“We play with our respective summer teams back home in preparation for our six-week OUA fall baseball seasons at school,” Strauch said. “So instead of participating in games, I’m focusing on more individual training because I have no other choice.”
Some of Strauch’s individual training includes lifting weights and throwing multiple times a week to keep himself in game shape.
For both El-Chanti and Strauch, it was challenging in the beginning to stay in shape with the closure of gyms. But since parks have reopened, it’s been easier to practice their respective sports.
“[I] got to be creative and find new ways to get work in, no excuses,” Strauch said. “Just be ready for when this is all over and hopefully at some point we can get back to playing.”
The decision to cancel sports is especially unfortunate for El-Chanti and Strauch because both are seniors, going into their final season playing organized university athletics.
“I know that for me as well as other teammates in which this was their last year it is especially tough,” Strauch said. “Just not the way anyone wants to finish their university careers, and I never imagined that last year’s playoffs could be my final time taking the field for Western.”
Even with the potential idea of playing fall sports in the winter, it just doesn’t make sense for some sports like baseball. A spring season has been talked about in the past, but obstacles such as final exams would have to be taken into consideration.
“A global pandemic might be the perfect time to try something new and maybe find a way to get a spring season up and running, if [it’s] logistically sound and safe to do so at the time,” Strauch said.
But in the meantime, these athletes, like the rest of us, will have to make do with the current situation.
“It’s all a mental game,” El-Chanti said.
”If you really want to train, then even COVID can’t stop you.”