This fall season will look different for every Varsity Blues team this year, with the cancellation of all Ontario University Athletics and U SPORTS games for the fall semester. The difference will be especially notable, however, for the water polo team, as familiar faces will be noticeably absent from practices.

Some players have decided, instead of dealing with the university’s strict and limiting COVID-19 training guidelines for varsity teams, to train instead with the national water polo team at their facilities in Montréal. As Québec continues to open up in phases, training facilities have been allowed to open, and Water Polo Canada has created a list of guidelines that will allow for training.

Diego Gonzalez Delgado, a player in his second year of eligibility, wrote to The Varsity that there are two U of T players training at the national water polo team in Montréal. “Some players are here to get back in shape in order to play for a professional team in Europe, while others are here to train at the highest level in the country and get better.”

His teammate, Minos Kotzambasis, also in his second year on the team, spoke to The Varsity. He commented that, although he will not be training with the national team, he agrees that there will be merit for those who do. As someone who has trained with them in previous summers, he described a typical week as “three training sessions a day, six times a week, and then you always got Sundays off.”

This volume of training contrasts that available at U of T, which is limited by pandemic precautions. Gonzalez Delgado wrote that, although U of T has a great water polo program, it can’t compete with the almost 22 hours of training at the national centre. “Due to the coronavirus, the practice time at U Of T is greatly reduced, along with the implementation of online classes, practicing away from toronto with the National Team is much more doable.”

Kotzambasis confirmed that at U of T, practice in “the fall semester is going to be twice a week in the water, Mondays and Wednesdays, and then they’re also going to be getting two weight sessions twice a week… It’s a lot less training in the fall than what we usually have.”

It’s clear that athletes who want to challenge themselves are attracted to the national centre training program. In terms of whether Gonzalez Delgado sees himself coming back for the winter term, he wrote that it depends on a lot of factors: “Obviously the delivery of classes online can negatively impact my learning and if there are in person labs and tutorials, I would definitely have to put some thought into returning to Toronto, only time will tell.”