The life of a student athlete is often busy, teeming with practices, classes, workouts and more.
However, the provincial government’s COVID-19 restrictions announced last November halted team and group sports gatherings, making life that more different for many student athletes.
Courtney Hufsmith is a student in the Edwards School of Business in her fifth year as a track-and-field and cross-country athlete. She says the news was hard on everyone.
“I think we were well prepared for the news but for some of my teammates, I know it was still tough,” Hufsmith said.
Hufsmith says that although her situation was different because of her goal to pursue elite running at the Olympics, she misses her team.
“It’s funny that we’ve all said we miss the really crowded Field House, which everyone hated before because you’d run into each other,” Hufsmith said. “I think everyone misses being together… It’s really strange training on your own.”
The pandemic has also had some positive impacts, too. She says that having life slow down a bit has been nice.
“Even not commuting to the university has really helped me out, and I just had more time to do things like hobbies and things around the house,” Hufsmith said.
With more vaccines being approved, Hufsmith, like many other student-athletes, is also wondering about the future of her athletic career. Working towards the Olympics is a goal for her, but she thinks that athletes should not be a priority when it comes to vaccinations — a statement that some Canadian Olympians have also voiced.
Fifth-year forward and nursing master’s student Bailee Bourassa from the women’s hockey team says athletes “thrive on being busy.”
“Now that that part of our lives has been cut out, it’s been quite a change for us,” Bourassa said.
She says another challenge is developing the skills usually learned in games.
“It’s hard for our rookies to learn and get into the U SPORTS competitiveness because it’s quite different from their high school experience,” Bourassa said.
The pandemic has been difficult, but it has given her a different perspective in terms of gratitude. Bourassa has also been working at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, and she hopes to continue if practices resume.
For fifth-year athlete and civil engineering student Libby Epoch of the women’s basketball team, the pandemic has also provided different opportunities.
“I found during this time that you realize family is all you have and you want to make sure everyone’s doing well,” Epoch said. “I think that is something that changed and that I will continue doing and make time for in the future.”
However, hearing the news of cancelled practices was “devastating” for Epoch, who says that a busy schedule helped organize her day better.
“To stop all of that and be almost isolated in your house is very hard on my mental health and I’m sure all the athletes’ mental health,” said Epoch.
Team communication has been especially helpful in bringing some sense of normalcy back, says Epoch. She also says that “real practices happen with a team,” and the lack of access to facilities makes it difficult to improve her skills.
Hufsmith, Bourassa and Epoch do agree that the future of group sports will look quite different going forward, but they are optimistic about moving towards some sense of normal, especially as vaccine distribution increases.
“It gives us hope that next year hopefully we can be as back to normal as we possibly can, so that’s really exciting,” Bourassa said.
“I think going forward group sports will be changed or the look of a season or the look of a game but all athletes persevere — that’s in our nature,” Epoch said.