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“Hard news to hear”: Varsity Blues athletes faced with cancelled fall 2020 season

Varsity Blues soccer striker, rowing alum reflect on the OUA, U Sports decision
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On June 8, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and U SPORTS, Canada’s national university athletics association, announced that all OUA and U SPORTS-affiliated athletics would be cancelled for the fall 2020 season in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Citing “the health of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, [and] officials” in the statement released on the OUA’s official website, the association declared that its sanctioned sports will not be resumed until after December 31.

The association made it clear in its FAQ that, despite the many seasons that this decision has cancelled — among them football, rugby, rowing, and soccer — it will not reverse this call were restrictions to ease up later on. 

“It’s hard news to hear for sure but I understand why the OUA had to come to that decision,” said Varsity Blues women’s soccer striker Erin Kelly in an interview with The Varsity. Going into her fourth season with the team, Kelly hopes that this necessary measure will ensure a soccer season the following year, which will be her final year on the team. “I feel particularly sorry for the athletes that were intending to play their last year this fall,” she said. 

Kelly finds it most useful to focus on what she can do, rather than what has been cancelled. “I am planning on doing lots of strength training in order to prevent any injuries when we get back to playing in competitive games again.” 

Alexander Marcopoulos, a recent U of T alum and Varsity Blues rower, shared a similar sentiment. “It seems like the responsible thing to do, but understandably, athletes work really hard to compete,” he said. 

“[The rowing team] trains really hard for a very disproportionate amount of time in comparison to how much they compete for U of T, so I can see how every race really matters. If it happened to me, I would definitely be upset,” Marcopoulos noted. As a former rower, his own university-affiliated season comprised only four regattas.

Like Kelly, he also feels for those athletes, across all sports in the OUA, whose last season would have been this coming year. “If you’re a graduating athlete, there’s a lot of emotional attachment to that final year.”

Head rowing coach Mark Williams maintains that the rowing team, for one, will be doing what it can with the fall season: “we are now focused on developing future scenarios for a phased return to rowing that will follow the guidelines of our public health authorities, the university, and our provincial sport governing body.”

Although training would have to be modified for health and safety and for a glaring lack of regattas, Williams maintained that “we will be looking to make any training sessions that we do have engaging, effective, and oriented toward building community within our team.”

The OUA has not yet announced a decision for its winter-term athletics, but has announced that “the organization’s goal will be a 2nd Term return.”