For sports like basketball, having no season will be a challenging first experience
Student-athletes face a new challenge due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will be a tough one to overcome: they cannot play.
The government announced in early October that all team sports were cancelled in the province of Quebec. The cancellation came right in the heat of and in response to the pandemic’s second wave. Then, the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) announced that it was cancelling winter sports until at least Jan. 15, affecting Concordia’s teams directly.
When the Stingers men’s basketball team head coach Rastko Popovic initially heard the RSEQ announcement, he said wasn’t surprised, especially with similar situations going on everywhere else across Canada.
“I think Quebec is still delaying it just to give it a chance in case the situation cools,” Popovic said. “As sad as I am for our student-athletes and for everybody not being able to have a league, it probably is the best decision.”
Without CEGEP games to watch, coaches have had to find new ways to find, attract and recruit new players. The team is using video calls, text messages, emails and even PowerPoint presentations to recruit players while no game or sports activity is allowed.
Another issue often forgotten with the pandemic is academic repercussions. A lot of athletes use the thought of playing basketball as motivation for their classes, especially as they have to maintain certain academic standards in order to remain on their team. Now this motivation is harder to come by, as they are stuck doing online classes just like every other student.
“I think all the coaches will be concerned with that, it’s just not easy,” Popovic said. “I follow up with my players on a weekly basis. We have online tutoring available also.”
This kind of improvisation has been a key part of keeping the athletes on the right track academically, but Popovic recognizes that athletes aren’t the only ones suffering from remote learning, as it hasn’t been easy for all students.
Popovic was very clear about the impact the situation could have on his team’s chemistry. He said he teaches his players to compete for every playing minute, so if his players are competitors, chemistry will come quickly and won’t be that big of an issue. By competing at a high level, chemistry usually sets in really quickly, because you get to understand the playing style of your teammates in a very short time.
“It’s going to be affecting everybody and take a little bit of time, but we have veteran players returning and other experienced guys coming in from transfers,” Popovic said. “That will help us once we get back together. We have a very good team culture and our veterans are very good at setting the example.”
Graphic by Taylor Reddam