LANGLEY — Student-athletes from the Canada West got a little more reason to believe that winter can still be their sports wonderland.
That seemed to be the consensus on Friday after the conference, which includes seven B.C. member universities, announced that it would extend the window of time during which it would determine the fate of its winter sports season by an additional 26 days, pushing its original Oct. 8 deadline to Nov. 2.
“Right away, the texts coming in to me were ‘Wow, a glimmer of hope,’” said Trinity Western athletic director Jeff Gamache of the responses he received from Spartans student-athletes regarding sports like men’s and women’s basketball, hockey and volleyball getting their best chance to enjoy some kind of a conference season. “They had been asking us all along why we had to make this decision so early. We’ve seen some great progress made in the last month on our campus and various campuses across the Canada West, so I would like to think that as that progress continues, that people will say ‘OK, we could we actually do this.’ Let’s not discount it.”
And a lot of that progress has come right here in B.C. where a further six member schools reside: UBC, Fraser Valley, Victoria, Thompson Rivers, UNBC and UBC Okanagan.
Also included among the cache of winter sports whose seasons are yet to be saved: Women’s rugby 7’s, as well as men’s and women’s swimming, curling, wrestling and indoor track and field.
The Canada West, which back in early June came out with the sobering news that it had cancelled its fall sports season due to COVID-19, offered at that time the hope that it would wait some four months before deciding on the fate of its winter sports.
My, how time flies.
“It didn’t feel like Oct. 8 was going to get to us quickly when we first spoke about all of this back in May,” said University of the Fraser Valley athletic director Steve Tuckwood, “but I think it got here pretty quickly, so people wanted to press pause, take another break and come to a decision that worked for everyone.
“I think we’ve all been doing a lot of great stuff in our province to put as much of a lid on COVID as we can,” added Tuckwood, “but we’re also dealing with three other provinces and we have to respect that moving forward. It’s a decision that impacts 17 schools across four provinces.”
“This buys us some time to think through more options,” added UBC Thunderbirds’ athletic director Kavie Toor. “Our group was advocating for a delayed decision. That is what we were hearing from our coaches and student-athletes. It was ‘Let’s give ourselves an opportunity to see if we can play.’
“We think there is a way we can play some sort of a competitive format within a small, local cohort,” Toor continued, “but having some actual league play and maybe a regional championship would be a huge bonus. This at least gives us a fighting chance for that, but there are still some challenges ahead.”
With almost four additional weeks granted as of Friday, athletic directors across the conference will continue to huddle, however virtual, and brainstorm the best ways to get their student-athletes safely back onto the field and into the best competition possible.
Above all, it’s a plan that has a chance to work because of the passion of its student-athletes.
“The uptick when we first got back on campus and were able to first open our fitness space, and then beyond that, the gym for our teams to train and practice in, was incredible,” said Tuckwood. “I have yet to see a medium effort… only a full effort.”
Added Gamache: “I would say very much that the athletes have felt heard, and that they are very thankful for that.”
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