College sports on hold
No one was surprised when the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association announced last Monday it was cancelling its fall sports seasons.
“We had quite a few conversations in the last month and a half trying to figure out what the different parameters and what the different options might be,” said Michelle O’Keefe, Niagara College’s associate director of athletics and recreation. “Could we still do golf and cross country if we staggered starts and all that sort of stuff but, in the end, it was decided that that just didn’t make sense.”
No final decisions have been made yet on sports such as volleyball and basketball that start in the fall and continue until spring.
“It’s wait and see because we are not allowed to do anything before Christmas,” O’Keefe said. “There’s no timeline but in the fall we will review and decide if we are far enough along in our pandemic control that we can start playing sports again.
“If we do, it will be a very condensed, different model for the season.”
O’Keefe agrees the old adage, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ holds true for collegiate sports.
“Isn’t that the truth?” she said. “You think about all the athletes and your kids included and they are used to September rolling around, starting a new school year and you start a new athletic season.”
The pandemic has changed everything.
“That is not the case this year, it is different and it’s not like you can go complain to anybody because the whole world is going through it,” O’Keefe said. “You can’t say, ‘Woe is me’ because we are all going through the same thing.
“We are trying to make sure they (athletes) know what their options are.”
Counsellors will be available to help the students cope with on-line classes and Niagara College’s coaches aren’t letting the pandemic halt training.
“They’ve got Zoom conversations, trainers are talking to the athletes via Zoom, we are trying to do the best we can in these new circumstances and make sure the athletes feel that they are supported,” she said. “I believe all athletes are training virtually and they all have to log what they’ve done.”
O’Keefe believes it is critical for the college to keep its athletes engaged and interested.
“Everybody is vulnerable and we know that with this change in delivery some people might decide to stay closer to home. Some people might decide that it is on-line so everything stays the same,” she said. “We want to make sure they all know their options and we will support them.”
Athletes who are not from Niagara but have decided they are still coming regardless of the pandemic will be assisted by the college.
“We will make them as welcome and supported as we can.”
Discussions are continuing regarding concerns about eligibility.
“I know in the OCAA we have talked about this year not counting but nothing has been confirmed yet,” O’Keefe said.
She has no idea what the sports landscape will look like when activities resume.
“I was joking with someone the other day about the old basketball rules where the guards could only stay in the front court,” O’Keefe said with a laugh. “Maybe we have to go back to the old rules.”
Like every department at Niagara College and other post-secondary institutions facing budget shortfalls, O’Keefe will be looking for savings.
“Because we know there is no competition in the fall, that helps a little bit,” she said. “It is turning over every stone and seeing what we can do.”
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