Regional schedules await approval from university, province
Canada West has announced their plans for the 2021-22 season. After a year without competition, Canada West plans for most sports to be able to return to some semblance of normalcy. Although U Sports has yet to make any announcements regarding the fall, Vikes athletes are excited about the return.
The proposed schedules for each sport will be regional-based with schools within the same province being formed into divisions that will play each other in a round-robin format. Some notable exceptions are rugby 15s and men’s soccer. Rugby 15s will see some inter-province competition between B.C. and Alberta schools. Men’s soccer will have a division of schools from Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
The schedules have yet to be formalized as they are still waiting on approval from member schools and the provinces. UVic Vikes Senior Director Clint Hamilton says the planning process for the 2021-22 season began last spring. The challenge that remains, according to Hamilton, is how to facilitate competition in a pandemic environment. He hopes that vaccinations will be widely available so that some sense of normalcy can return.
Hamilton applauds the use of a regional schedule by Canada West, both to keep students safe and to reduce costs.
“I think it’s a wise decision,” he said. “It’s a one-year decision, and then hopefully we’re talking about post-COVID and we can start to look at competition in Canada, as we have traditionally for years.”
For student-athletes, the relief is palpable. Logan Fisher of the men’s soccer team says that after a long year of training and sitting around it will be exciting to return to competition.
“I know all the boys are excited,” Fisher told the Martlet. “It’s going to be good finally having a season to compete for because obviously that’s why we were all playing.”
Ethan Phillips, a swimmer going into his fifth year at UVic and his fourth year of varsity, says that he is cautiously optimistic about Canada West’s plans but knows that a lot of work remains before the proposed season can become a reality.
“I hesitate to be fully gung ho about it, I’m not super sold on it, because as they do point out, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Phillips said. “We still need to have the approval of the institutions involved, of the provincial governing bodies, both the health ministries and the provincial support ministries, but overall, I do believe that it is a positive sign that things are slowly changing for the better.”
As a member of the Varsity Leadership Council, Phillips understands the unique challenges facing each team in regards to competing safely. The Varsity Leadership Council raises concerns from all varsity teams with the university.
“For example, our team was swimming, we have our own lanes…we’re always two meters apart when we’re in the pool racing,” he said. “Team sports like rugby, basketball, you can’t, you have to be mindful of your close proximity, which was a common challenge among the teams.”
Although he would like to see athletes be encouraged to take the vaccine, he is against making it mandatory as some athletes may be hesitant to receive the vaccine for various health reasons.
“I don’t believe that it is physically possible,” said Phillips. “It’s not feasible to have to mandate that.”
Hamilton believes that keeping competition regional will also help keep athletes and coaching staff safe when returning to competition.
“It affords the best opportunity to ensure that games can occur, competitions can occur,” he said.
Meanwhile athletes like Fisher and Phillips just want to get out and play. Fisher says he trusts Canada West and U-Sport to come up with a plan that keeps them safe.
“We are all looking forward to finally getting back to it and getting back to what we are here to do,” he said.