Coaches and players remain positive that sports will be played in 2020-21
Concordia University announced earlier this month that the upcoming fall semester will be online. The official statement from the university specified that exceptions will be made for activities requiring hands-on practice, but didn’t discuss the future of their sports teams for the 2020-21 seasons.
It’s not clear if university sports will be played in the fall, as many questions are still unanswered. Even though the fall semester will be online for many students in the province, university sports could still be played depending on the decisions of U SPORTS and the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ).
However, a scenario where U SPORTS and the RSEQ would let the play go on wouldn’t automatically mean that the Concordia Stingers would play at Concordia Gym, Concordia Stadium or the Ed Meagher Arena. Montreal is currently Canada’s hot spot for confirmed COVID-19 cases, which could force the Stingers to play elsewhere during the pandemic.
Stingers coaches and players haven’t received more information since last week’s statement, but are still confident there will be a 2020-21 season. Tenicha Gittens, head coach for the women’s basketball team, believes having classes online in the fall will help ensure sports can be played during the next school year.
“Our players are in constant contact, as they go to class, travel from one place to the other, and play basketball,” Gittens said. “By having classes online, it eliminates many of those physical contacts between our players and other people.”
On the men’s side, head basketball coach Rastko Popovic said sports will need to follow what experts say.
We might have a full season, or perhaps a shortened season,” Popovic said. “I think it will also depend on what other provinces or schools do. It sometimes takes one school to do something, and the others follow.”
On the women’s hockey team, forwards Audrey Belzile and Emmy Fecteau said the hockey equipment used, such as the full visor for the women, should help avoid skin-to-skin contact.
“We probably won’t start in September as usual, but I think it’s still possible,” Belzile said. “It will be my last season, so it’s tough and sad to think I might have [already] played my last university game without knowing it. Yet, there are still many months before the start of the season, so I’m optimistic.”
Fecteau said it’s been hard to conclude last season without the traditional galas and team gatherings. She explained that players didn’t have time to say goodbye to each other.
“It would be too sad if the players couldn’t play their final year, and finish their university career that way,” Fecteau said.
Basketball player Olivier Simon is among those playing their last season in 2020-21. The veteran forward, who graduated at the end of the winter semester in 2019, said that with the current COVID-19 situation, he’s considering skipping next season, if there is one, and coming back for 2021-22.
“I’d have the chance to play a full season, with preseasons, tournaments and possibly nationals,” Simon said. “It’s a big decision I’ll have to make because I don’t want to end my career with a half-season and without tournaments. Yet, it’s also a tough one, as we don’t know what’s the future going to be like right now. On the academic side, I have to look at the best options. I might look for a master’s degree or something more concrete.”
The Stingers are using what many students and teachers have been using since confinement: Zoom. Coaches and players are using the communication platform each week for their meetings.
With Zoom, the ‘share screen’ button allows you to show other people in your chat what’s on your computer or cellphone screen. Popovic said his staff shares training videos to help their players stay active the best way they can from home.
We have players elsewhere in Canada and the world,” Popovic said. “We understand that some are having tougher times than others, and we are simply doing our best to help them during this difficult time.”
For men’s basketball player Sami Jahan, who recorded 147 points in his first season with the Stingers in 2019-20, it’s frustrating to look forward to a season that may not happen. However, he said that on the whole, there are things so much worse than not playing sports right now.
“For me, it’s just [important] to be patient, and to keep working on my basketball,” Jahan said. “Even as you’re training, it’s about continuing to be positive, and believing that good things will come.”
Rugby, soccer and football teams are the Stingers teams that normally play exclusively in the fall, while hockey and basketball have calendars covering both semesters. Due to the current situation, sports played in the fall could end up playing their full 2020-21 season in the winter, while those with longer calendars could be forced to play shortened seasons.
Photo from archive – by Andrej Ivanov (2015)