As the sports season moves forward without competitions and conferences, first-year athletes feel discouraged with their university sports experience.
“As each cancellation came, I would get upset, really sad,” cross-country rookie Jenna McFadyen said.
As she takes a tremendous sigh during her virtual interview with the Sheaf, McFadyen says it was difficult to accept the changes at first, thinking that competitions “shouldn’t be something to sacrifice.”
“When nationals were cancelled, I was like, ‘That doesn’t mean everything’s gone,’” McFadyen said. “We [can still] be competitive, maybe with University of Regina, and maybe that’ll be the only thing.”
Watching the opportunities that a regular season offer disappear one by one as the year progressed was difficult for McFadyen. However, she says she understands the current circumstances, why they happened and what needs to be prioritized.
First-year athletes are facing more than just season cancellations. For a good portion of the Fall Term, many of the Huskie teams practiced together while adhering to public health guidelines. However, in the last few months of 2020 the province announced more restrictions on team sports to accommodate the rising cases of COVID-19.
According to the provincial guidelines, athletes 18 years old and under can continue to train in groups of eight or fewer. This has left first-year Madi Epoch from the women’s soccer team, who is 19 years old, unable to train with the rest of her rookie group.
“It’s a little bit frustrating,” Epoch said.
The women’s soccer team is training in two groups right now. One group within the walls of their workout room where Epoch trains with the rest of the team, while most of the rookies train at the Education gym.
“I’m with the rest of my team, [with] everybody else,” Epoch said. “It makes me feel frustrated that that rule is in place, but I understand where they’re coming from.”
Epoch’s frustration is mirrored by rookies Mallory Dyer and Mckenna Bolger of the women’s hockey team. Dyer says that practicing without the upper-year athletes is not an ideal team situation.
“It is tough practicing without the older girls that have been there for years, leading by example when it comes to learning team systems,” Dyer said.
The 2020-21 women’s hockey team has 11 rookies. Without the full team on the ice, Dyer says that finding their “own place on the team” is a challenge, especially since rookies are only training with each other in teams of six. Bolger says that it is harder to form a sense of camaraderie with the other players since private gatherings are also restricted.
“It’s not like we could hang out and meet up as a team and hold a team event,” Bolger said. “I think it definitely makes it a little bit more difficult to get closer to other people, especially older players.”
Despite these challenges, there was one common shift in mindset that all four students mentioned — preparing for when competitions return.
“Everyone within the team was able to switch their mindsets quickly to being prepared for when we finally are able to play no matter when that is, whether it’s the next couple months or not for a while,” Bolger said.
Dyer says that through the tough times of this season, she learned an important lesson of being in the present and being resilient.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is taking things day by day, and being resilient through … the uncertainty that we’re in,” Dyer said. “You need to keep our team values in place and make sure that we’re focused and just continuing to prepare and control what we actually can control.”
For Epoch, this season was not all negative and she tries “to make a light out of it.” She says that from an underclassmen’s perspective, it was good to have an extra season because the first year is usually fast paced.
“It does suck that there’s no season, but if we’re gonna make light out of it, having that extra time to train … to adjust has been helpful for me,” Epoch said.
Epoch says staying positive and training like they will play the next day has been a lesson for her this year.
McFadyen shares the same perspective as Epoch about having this year as a way to “ease” into university sports life. She says that if she were given an opportunity to have a normal season, she would take it.
However, she thinks it would’ve been just as tough.
“I think as much as everyone says it sucks, it’s your first year,” McFadyen said. “It would be just as hard with any year and at least it still seems like things are exciting and new being a rookie.”