It’s time to try powerlifting

Winter is coming and so is bulking season

It’s time to try powerlifting

As the new year is approaching and the temperature is dropping, it’s official — bulking season is here. If those words immediately remind you of long hours on the treadmill until you can’t breathe or lifting weights until you can’t move the next morning, it may be time to try something new.

Powerlifting may help take your body to the next level this bulking season. Simple in concept, the goal of a powerlifter is to move as much weight as possible. Powerlifting is all about increasing strength above average capabilities and pushing your body beyond what you consider its limits.

Powerlifters focus on compound movements, such as the benchpress, deadlift, and squat. These exercises are multifaceted and incorporate many more muscles than simple isolation exercises like dumbbell curls and leg extensions. By focusing their efforts on compound movements, powerlifters are able to increase their overall strength because they train as many muscles as possible within a single workout.

Bigger and stronger muscles are for more than just show, as weightlifting has been proven to increase bone density, ward off chronic disease, improve mood and sleep, and boost metabolism, among countless other health benefits.

Another good reason to start powerlifting is because it is relatively simple compared to other workout regimens. All you really need to powerlift is a barbell and weight plates. These can be found at the university gyms, and pretty much every gym in Canada. If leaving the house isn’t your thing, a bar and weights are also relatively inexpensive and can be adapted easily to create a home gym setup.

However, this workout regimen is far from simple brute strength. In order to lift properly, let alone powerlift, there are multiple aspects of training that one must master, including proper form, nutrition, and willpower. Powerlifting is as much about finesse and technique as it is about raw power, so don’t just walk into a gym and start lifting as much weight as possible, Rather, take it slow and learn your workouts.

If you want to try powerlifting this bulking season, it’s vital that you start slow, stay consistent, watch your form, listen to your body, and get advice from someone more experienced. These five tips will make your experience more enjoyable and ensure that you see results that’ll carry over into next summer.

More than anything else, powerlifting is an investment in yourself, but the first step is getting in the gym.

WNBA pay disparity

Why WNBA players want a larger share of revenue

WNBA pay disparity

On LeBron James’ HBO Show The Shop, the Los Angeles Lakers star discusses pop culture and politics with other entertainers and influencers. Recently, one of his visitors was WNBA all-star Elena Delle Donne. Delle Donne has become a major advocate for pay equality for WNBA players.

She has voiced her disappointment with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s comments that the WNBA simply doesn’t currently attract enough young fans to become profitable and that increasing media coverage is not the answer to WNBA’s financial struggles. While WNBA players such as Candace Parker and Delle Donne are excited to have a voice on LeBron’s show, recognition from NBA players is far from the solution.

NBA players live like rock stars. Cameras and recorders follow them the moment they walk off their bus at the arena. A multitude of Instagram accounts are dedicated to their pre-game outfits, handshakes, and highlights of their games. The internet is flooded with comments about Lebron’s music choices, Russell Westbrook’s extravagant outfits, and Kawhi Leonard’s ridiculous laugh. Everything they do gets attention. We glamourize them for social outreach endeavours, big stat lines, and broken records. In the end, the exorbitant revenue made by the NBA allows its players to reach such incredible levels of stardom.

Diana Taurasi, star of the Phoenix Mercury, has expressed frustration with being covered in makeup before an interview. In the past years, WNBA marketing has encouraged female athletes to fit an inauthentic image and added unneeded pressure to WNBA players.

Silver explains that the new goal should be to market the players as themselves. “They’re certainly the best female basketball players in the world… but once that’s established, you have to build out their character… so people have ways that they can connect with them, beyond basketball on the court.” There appears to be a consensus that changing the WNBA’s marketing strategy will eventually get WNBA players the higher salaries that they deserve.

While NBA players connect with fans by sharing inspiring messages, buying their mother a house, or owning several sports cars, WNBA players do not have this luxury. The ability to solely focus on winning, living a healthy lifestyle, and simply staying in the United States during the offseason, is a privilege held by NBA players. For women playing in a league that has existed for 22 years and has yet to earn a profit, they continually have to prove their value as a “product” worth investing in.

To accurately portray the WNBA’s image, however, is to make the public aware that WNBA players do not live glamorous lives, or even lives fitting for professional athletes.

WNBA players live regular middle-class lives. Mirin Fader’s article in B/R Mag opens with the daily struggles of the Connecticut Sun’s Layshia Clarendon as a professional athlete. Clarendon had difficulty affording a proper diet or finding a nice gym to practise in. Her WNBA salary only affords her a $30 USD a month LA Fitness membership, where she shoots jump shots off a slippery, injury-inducing floor hit the ceiling.

Kayla McBride was the third overall pick in 2014 and averaged 13 points per game as a rookie. She earned $48,000 USD that year with the San Antonio Stars. In the offseason, she played in Hungary and broke her foot. She rushed back to the WNBA shortly after surgery because she felt pressure to play well and sign another generous overseas contract. When she returned to WNBA basketball, she broke her foot again. This year, she is off to Russia to play for a contract that is six times her WNBA salary.

This year’s third overall pick in the NBA draft will earn $5,467,200 USD and $6,402,800 USD in their second year. This is more money than most young adults know what to do with. It is enough to give back to their families and communities, buy a luxury home, and pay a personal chef.

This past season, Sylvia Fowles was named the WNBA MVP and earned $109,000 USD. Meanwhile, Phoenix Suns’ Leandro Barbosa will earn $500,000 USD, although he was waived in July. He will earn half a million dollars without setting foot on the court.

While NBA organizations worry about players living too lavishly and getting into trouble off the court, WNBA organizations worry about players maintaining their diet, having access to good gyms, and hurting themselves overseas.

This year, the NBA is expected to generate over $9 billion USD in revenue, while the WNBA will earn around $60 million USD, less than one per cent of the NBA’s total revenue. WNBA players earn about 22 per cent of the leagues revenue, while NBA players receive about 50 per cent. In 2018, ESPN will air up to 33 WNBA games, including 13 regular-season games. ESPN will host 84 NBA regular-season games, and up to 44 NBA playoff games along with ABC.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve believes that the WNBA plays under a “media blackout.” Players are concerned that if people cannot watch games from their home, then they won’t be encouraged to buy tickets. Silver responded to this concern with, “I’m a little bit frustrated.”

He believes that ESPN has been generous enough, and that the WNBA needs to focus on social media to attract a younger fan base. Fader accurately describes this as a chicken-or-egg debate. Once it becomes more popular through increased national telecasts, social media presence comes naturally.

Although a marketing strategy change will allow players to represent their authentic selves, the ‘authentic’ WNBA player today is a woman who needs to leave the country to make a living each year and who waits in line to use weights at a local gym.

For men, becoming a professional athlete is the ultimate victory. It doesn’t just represent winning, doing what you love, and becoming the hero of a city; it represents luxury and access to many other things that they could want.

For women, the dream is not equal. It may take them the same amount of time and effort to become professional athletes in the United States, but the payoff is bleak and incomparable. There is ample work to be done until female basketball players can live the life that is expected for professional athletes. Ultimately, increasing salaries will keep younger women inspired to pursue sport.

Hart House Drop-in Series: Flexibility Fusion

Attending a Flexibility Fusion class at Hart House

Hart House Drop-in Series: Flexibility Fusion

One of the best ways to spend reading week is to take up residence at Gerstein library. Of course, it is in your better interests to also take a break. I did just that by going to the Flexibility Fusion class at Hart House on a breezy Wednesday afternoon.

The first thing that I noticed when I walked in was that those in attendance seemed to already know what they were doing. It just so happens that the instructor, Edith Varga, has been teaching this class since 1984. Varga has known some of her students for decades. Since it was reading week, there were fewer students than usual.

Starting with a few moments of mindful breathing, we took time to sync our breaths and relax. This conscious act of breathing deeply activates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes relaxation. Throughout the class, Varga would gently remind us of our breathing, maintaining that we should feel comfortable with the way we move and that we should not force ourselves into uncomfortable patterns.

After the relaxing introduction, 30 minutes were spent on the floor, using gravity and working against it for reclining warmups. Limited movements then became much deeper stretches — twists and turns facilitating the flexibility of the hips, shoulders, and neck, and also stabilizing the core. For the finale, another short sequence of relaxing motions pulled us all back down to our mats.

With every challenging movement, Varga offered alternatives, and with every simple pose, she offered more challenging variations. She would also offer tips to accommodate for and prevent injuries; for example, placing our hands off the mat to prevent wrist pain.

Maintaining a consistent stretching routine prevents muscle weakness and loss of flexibility, ensuring a healthy range of motion. Regularly stretching can relieve tension and prevent injury. A good rule of thumb is to hold a stretch for 30 seconds and not to bounce, which can cause injury.

According to Varga, the class is called Flexibility Fusion because she fuses poses from various disciplines that she’s studied, such as dance, martial arts, and pilates. She notes that creating new movements is a creative outlet for her, and that members enjoy the variety. I agree, as there were some stretches that I’d never encountered before, which I loved.

“I’ve never taught the same class twice in 42 years. There’s a structure and there’s certain things you have to cover, and there is a certain familiarity to the flavour, the patterning, but I like to vary it.”

Overall, Varga facilitated the class with visual language that allowed me to envision the way my body would move and helped me stretch beyond what I thought possible. She notes that many people think that they already have to be flexible to take this class, but that is not required at all. Whether you’re flexible or not, I would recommend this class.

Flexibility Fusion runs in the Exercise Room with Varga on Wednesdays at 1:10 pm and Fridays at 12:10 pm, with Martin Phills on Tuesdays at 8:10 pm, and with Debbie Sabadash on Sundays at 10:10 am.

A blunt look at cannabis and the NHL

Opinion from the Sports Ethicist

A blunt look at cannabis and the NHL

As we were all highly anticipating, recreational cannabis was legalized on October 17 across the Great White North. While this was an exciting event for a lot of us, it has larger implications for the world of sport.

The NHL was quick to make headlines stating that it would not be changing its cannabis policy to accommodate Canadian teams. Although cannabis is generally banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and thereby the Canadian Anti-Doping Program (CADP), the NHL has the most lenient rules toward its usage out of all major sports leagues.

The NHL has never suspended players for having weed in their systems, and an anonymous ex-player interviewed by Sportsnet estimated that 60–70 per cent of current players already smoke the drug regularly. With that being said, is it ethical to regulate cannabis usage for NHL athletes?

This is a question that has already been asked by nutritionists and sports therapists, but the debate rages on about whether or not weed actually has benefits as a painkiller. Most evidence is anecdotal at best and there is little to no conclusive data from independent clinical studies.

Zack Smith, an 11-year NHL veteran, has also expressed the potential for cannabis as a sleep aid, since athletes are often under intense travelling schedules and need to find time to get a good night’s rest.

Riley Cote, a retired player for the Philadelphia Flyers, has gone on record touting weed’s benefits for sleep, reduced anxiety, and overall increased moods. Even if these benefits are not empirically proven, the step that Canada has taken by legalizing cannabis chips away at the ever-present stigma of its use and opens up the floor for Canadian institutions to examine the effects of the drug in sport.

While the restorative value of weed remains up in the air, I believe that the larger ethical issue resides in the distribution of and access to the drug among players in the NHL.

As we know, a majority of teams in the NHL are based in the United States, where cannabis is still illegal. Not only would there be logistical issues — as Canadian teams would not be able to bring any weed over the border — but it would also present issues of fair play, as American teams do not have access to treatments that utilize cannabis.

In the case where cannabis does improve the sleep, recovery, and overall mood and anxiety levels of NHL athletes, American teams should have the same access to these resources that Canadian teams do, or else this could be seen as an unfair advantage.

Regardless of legalization, U of T’s varsity hockey athletes still have to follow the same rules. Ryan Medel, Varsity Blues men’s hockey head coach, reminds us that weed is still prohibited by U SPORTS. “All student-athletes are not permitted to use during their season. That is league-wide and we are in line with that,” Medel says.

Although cannabis has been legalized in our country, it isn’t feasible for the NHL to change its policy because of the variation in laws between countries.

This being said, I believe that the CADP’s decision to maintain cannabis as a banned substance for athletes was an ethically sound judgement, based largely on fairness in access to the drug by athletes. This decision is not a moral one and, if one day the US decides to legalize cannabis federally, then the NHL and WADA may have to change their policies and decide how the drug can be used as an aid or therapy for athletes.

But for now, Canada’s favorite pastime cannot, and should not, go green.

Inside Sport & Rec’s Diversity & Equity Team

Sport & Rec is hosting a Diversity and Equity Conference on November 17

Inside Sport & Rec’s Diversity & Equity Team

From the squash court to Mindful Moments drop-ins, there is always some way to get active at the University of Toronto. Despite the many options available, students still struggle to find fitness spaces that are right for them. It can be especially difficult for students who don’t see themselves represented in such spaces.

Aiming to shed light on these anxieties, one group on campus is working to break down the barriers to physical and mental health facing U of T students: Sport & Recreation’s Diversity & Equity team.

Composed of undergraduate and graduate students from across campus who work to promote equity and inclusion in physical fitness, the Diversity & Equity team is a part of the Sport & Recreation division of Kinesiology & Physical Education, which offers sport and physical activity programs to the U of T community. With an emphasis on accessibility, their initiatives aim to cater to all skill sets, body types, genders, and other diverse forms of identity.

Through activities and events such as the weekly trans-positive swim time and the body-positive Move with Pride! series, the group is creating non-traditional fitness spaces for underrepresented bodies on campus. With its programming, the group hopes to provide spaces where students feel accommodated, comfortable, and encouraged to get involved in the Sport & Rec community.

Whether attending alone or with friends, Diversity & Equity events are a great way to learn more about fitness, make new friends, or simply destress from hectic university life.

If you’re looking to incorporate some education into your fitness journey, the Diversity & Equity team is hosting a Diversity & Equity Conference on November 17, in collaboration with the 519 Community Centre and the Toronto SAD Collective at 519 Church Street. The conference includes a series of lectures, workshops, and interactive panels on topics ranging from Indigeneity to mental health. Registration is only $5 and includes dinner and snacks.

IMAGE COURTESY OF THE U of T SPORT AND REC. DIVERSITY AND EQUITY STUDENT TEAM, THE 519 COMMUNITY

Success from challenges: lessons from dragon boat

An in-depth look at UTSC’s Crimson Tide dragon boat team

Success from challenges: lessons from dragon boat

Sweat. Maybe some blood. Maybe some tears.

Dragon boat athletes know that it’s a mental workout, as much as it is a physical one. Overcoming challenges “fortifies your mind,” says Rome Rehman, a third-year student at UTSC and a paddler on UTSC’s Crimson Tide dragon boat team.

Last season, the team won one silver and one bronze medal at the Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival, but medals aren’t the only fruits of their labour. The work put into this sport prepares athletes for life.

What is it about dragon boat that equips athletes with life skills? What can we learn from them?

The stakes

There are 22 people on the boat: 10 paddling on each side, one drummer in the front, and a steersperson in the back.

In dragon boat, everyone rows in sync, which means that the weakest link sets the pace for the rest of the team, says Rehman.

“You have to stay on top of your stuff to help the team move up instead of even maintaining where you are or even bringing the team down.”

On her first cold morning practice, Rehman described her surprise at having to row a 2,000-metre race in the rough wind and rain.

“I’d never done a 2k anything before,” she laughs.

Aware of the several times that she had stopped, and her small frame and lousy technique, she thought about quitting during those first few practices. “I was mostly just scared that it was going to be tough or that I’d make a fool of myself and end up letting people down.”

The team

In this sport, there are 21 people who are literally in the same boat as you.

“The team is your support and it’s like a mental game,” she says.

Rehman learned that in moments when panic sets in and you’re feeling disappointed by your performance, the best thing to do is to talk to other people.

You may be afraid of letting them down but “that’s when [your teammates] talk you through it and that’s when you keep pushing through, keep working hard.”

Rehman describes her team as friends who became like family. There’s an organic vision of how each team member contributes to the team’s success, and how the team supports the development of each athlete.

Rehman explains that while she’s come to appreciate how the team understands when you miss practices for school, she gets her academic responsibilities and work done well beforehand so that she can be a strong participating member at team practices.

There’s also “something about suffering together but then still achieving your goal at the end,” she says.

“Dragon boat is a cult,” Terrence Yu, coach of UTSC’s dragon boat team, jokes. “Once you become involved, it’s easy to stick around because your friends are all in it.”

The lifestyle

Students appointed by Yu make up the executive team, or the “core.” They’re in charge of leading workout sessions throughout the week and nurturing the winning mentality.

This includes identifying individual-specific goals to improve, especially when you’re having a tough time.

After stopping during the 2k rowing, Rehman recalls Yu telling her, “As long as you get one per cent better next practice.”

By focusing on and implementing each specific piece of advice to improve her rowing technique, she would get through. “You’ll work on hinging more or going forward, or work on shifting your weight out, work on pulling the water through, or something like that. Each time you get one per cent better, so over time you get through it.”

“It’s all within your own ability to prevent that from happening again,” says Yu. “That’s where the self-development comes along.”

In fact, rather than letting the negatives bring you down, Yu describes the challenges themselves as part of the positives. You build upon your strengths.

“That’s the great thing about sport itself,” says Yu. Compared to the long haul of school, it’s putting you in scenarios where you are constantly challenged and constantly receiving results.

Once you have your breakthrough moment, whether it is accomplishing a personal fitness goal in the gym or winning a race with the team in the water, overcoming athletic hurdles gives you the confidence to take on difficulties at school and in the workforce.

“That’s one thing that I know,” says Rehman, “I have this experience now in my arsenal that I know if I push through I can get through.”

Yu encourages students to think of how to use dragon boat opportunities to fuel their personal development.

“At the end of the day, we just want people who are like-minded in making themselves a better person and hopefully improving their fitness and having a great time as a group,” says Yu.

If you think you could use a vehicle to bond and get along with others, to develop leadership skills, and become mentally and physically stronger, try dragon boat.

If it’s not for you, simply take it as a metaphor for overcoming any of life’s challenges.

Keep rowing.

Keep growing.

All the way to Baggataway

Inside the Varsity Blues men’s lacrosse team’s 2018 season

All the way to Baggataway

“That’s a turnover!” head coach Joe Nizich shouts, his voice echoing through Varsity Stadium as an errant pass sails out of bounds. He shakes his head and paces down the sideline, exasperated.

The Varsity Blues men’s lacrosse team lines up and resets the drill.

“We have to hold on to the ball!” Nizich yells, and as the whistle sounds, the team restarts the drill. The whistle sounds again, and again, and again. Just like it has nearly every day since late August, all in preparation for the November 9–11 weekend when the Blues host the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association (CUFLA) championship, the Baggataway Cup, for the first time in their program’s history.

Baggataway. The word on everyone’s lips since it leaked in early spring that U of T would be hosting the tournament. Baggataway, “the Creator’s game” — the game played by the Indigenous peoples of this land that has come to be known as lacrosse. Baggataway, the final weekend of the CUFLA men’s lacrosse season.

September 7: Toronto at Laurier (win)

The final seconds of the halftime break are ticking off. The Blues are huddled together, laughing and gesturing to the scoreboard, 7–2. It’s only halftime, but the game is surely over. Captain Jason “Barney” Barnable has begun the season the same way he begins every season — scoring goals and setting them up. As the team comes together before taking to the field again, coach Nick Bradley is quick to pour water on the flames. He looks around the huddle, and shakes his head. “I don’t know why you’re all laughing, score’s 0–0.”

Play like the score is tied; it’s a common refrain in team sports. Imagine the next goal as the winning goal. In the first game of their season, it’s a lesson that the Blues have yet to learn. A game that seemed certain at halftime ends closer than it needed to.

On this night, the talent on the Blues roster makes the difference. They win the game, but as they get back on the bus and fight through traffic to arrive home in the early hours of the morning, they know that, in the coming weeks and months, talent alone will not be enough.

September 28: Toronto vs. Brock (loss)

The Blues are down big time. They’ve given the last 72 minutes of gameplay at home to Brock. Through the bitterly wet and windy night, the Blues have fought hard, but there’s only eight minutes left and they’re going to lose this game. A timeout is called and the team huddles together with the coaches.

Team captain Zach Holmes hunches over, exhausted — 72 minutes and he’s played every second. He winces as he stands up straight, his back to the scoreboard. Tall, proud, and defiant in the face of defeat, he says, “We can play with them, boys, we can play with anyone in this league — we just have to play our game.”

Their heads raised high and eyes blinking through rain that is now falling heavier and heavier with each minute, there’s a sense of determination and belief that resounds through the team. It isn’t about the single lopsided game, it’s about the progress. It’s about finishing as you mean to go on. “We’re going to play a team like this at Baggataway,” coach Jon Moore says. Normally calm, jovial, and easygoing, the team’s offensive coordinator is electric come game time. “They’re not better than us. Our guys against their guys any day of the week.”

The team comes together again, huddling close. “Eight miles, boys!” a reference to former captain Jonathan “Rudy” Rudyk’s favourite method for keeping time. There’s some laughter and a few grins, then on the count of three, “Blues!” rings through the huddle, through the wind and rain. There’s a sense of togetherness and a sense of family.

There’s no Hollywood ending to this game. No emotional comeback. No last-second winner. There have been some of those in past games and in games to come; but not tonight.

The 2018 Varsity Blues men’s lacrosse team. PHOTO COURTESY OF VARSITY BLUES ATHLETICS

A heartbreaking loss

The men’s lacrosse team has a group chat, as almost every varsity team does. It’s a space to talk about practice, workouts, academics, and general team banter. It’s a space all of their own, away from coaches, and trainers, and doctors. A place to tease and support each other, it’s a virtual locker room.

On September 10, a different message is sent in the group chat. It is a message that will dramatically alter and come to define the season. Coach, former captain, and forever friend Alejandro Duque passed away the day before. The shock and heartbreak that the players feel is beyond words, beyond comprehension. Senior players had been teammates with Al; they had leaned on his experience, been motivated by his burning passion, and come to love him as a brother. They can’t make sense of it. He was so young, so vibrant, and so excited for the next chapter of his life. The first-year players, most of whom hadn’t met Al, don’t know how to react, only understanding that Al’s loss was a massive one.

That week, practice is tough. No one has the words to describe the hole that is left in the heart of the team. No one wants to practice, and yet being there, together, is comforting.

The one thing that unites the team, that unites every player on the roster, is a love for lacrosse. They take comfort in a crisp pass and an extra effort to get a loose ball. They take comfort in celebrating a particularly outrageous goal, and a stellar defensive play. They take comfort in the sport they love, and it is healing.

The team attends Alejandro’s celebration of life later in the week. Generations of Blues lacrosse players come to say goodbye. It is emotional in many ways. There are many tears, but nearly as many smiles. In a time of such sorrow, there is a sense of family.

Thing One and Thing Two

“Power, do your stretches!” Darren “Blondie” Elliott shouts over his shoulder. “You do your stretches!” Sean Power yells back, mocking him.

“Power!”

“Blondie!”

The pair go on like this for a few more moments, shouting at each other and bickering like an old married couple, much to the amusement of the rest of the team. Thing One and Thing Two. Inseparable off the field and leaders on it. Both joined the team the previous year; Blondie, a silky smooth attackman, and Power, a tenacious midfielder.

An offensive midfielder last year, Power selflessly moved to the defensive side of the ball for this season. There’s no glamour in being a defensive midfielder in field lacrosse. No goals or fancy tricks. No six-foot long pole to wield like a broadsword. It’s a hard, heavy job between your marked man and the ball-carrier. The constant running, vicious body-checking, and fear of making a mistake and having to fish the ball out of your net.

But the team comes first, and Power’s sacrifice has ensured a strong and dependable defense. At their best, the Blues defense frustrates, leaving their rivals bruised, battered, and struggling to score.

September 30: Toronto vs. McMaster (win)

As darkness descends around Varsity Stadium, the bright lights shine down on the Blues as they warm up. Everyone on the team has their own pre-game ritual. Some spend time alone to focus. Others exchange lighthearted banter and shoot on the net until the coaches call them in.

The Blues always find McMaster a difficult opponent. Although unable to match Toronto’s talent, McMaster never fails to match their intensity. This game is no different. Heading into the final 20-minute quarter, the Blues are losing by a goal.

In a season filled with such promise — and with the ultimate goal of lifting a trophy at season’s end — losing to McMaster at home would be devastating.

With less than 10 minutes left, first-year attacking midfielder and graduate student Nick Pison scores his second of the game to tie things up. A diamond found in the intramural rough, Pison has been an offensive standout for the Blues. But now at five minutes and counting, Mac once again takes the lead.

“No more,” Gabriel Lisus-Lean says. Those two words are simple enough to understand; they are the ethos of defense. Do not break, do not even bend. Give everything you have in these final minutes. Whatever it takes, hold.

This is defensive coordinator Lisus-Lean’s fourth year as a coach, after playing four years for the Blues.

Eight years with the program, and time and time again, he’s mentioned the dream of playing a playoff game at Varsity Stadium. The Blues are guaranteed that game at Baggataway, but Lisus-Lean is well aware that with the execution the Blues are showing tonight — that game could turn ugly.

CUFLA abides by international rules: four 20-minute quarters. But the fourth quarter of the game against McMaster isn’t going to be won or lost on September 30 alone; it is either won or lost during August training camp and every practice thereafter.

At the end of every practice, strength and conditioning coach Dr. Alex St. Pierre spends 10 minutes putting the Blues through brutal conditioning exercises that leave them gasping for air, legs leaden beneath them.

But it is these 10 minutes every day that give them the mental fortitude and physical ability to play the way they do in the final five minutes against McMaster.

With less than two minutes to go, Barney scores to tie the game. In the final minute, Barney finds Blondie, who buries his decisive second of the game. The Blues win.

Darren “Blondie” Elliott despairs at one of the few chances he’s missed. PHOTO BY SEYRAN MAMADOV/THE VARSITY BLUES

October 12: Toronto at Western (loss)

Rain is falling and the temperature is dipping dangerously close to zero; these are some of the only constants of October lacrosse. It’s halftime and the Blues are huddled together. They’re in London, taking on the Western Mustangs. After hours on the road, the Blues have come out flat. The coaches are seething, as the Blues have failed to make a simple play and they’re being punished for it.

Lacrosse is a brutal game. Historically, Indigenous peoples used this sport as a war game. Entire tribes would compete against each other on a scale scarcely imaginable, with estimates ranging from 100 participants to 100,000.

Today, only nine men and a goalie take the field at a time, and although it is no longer a war game, the stakes are still high and the play is still ferocious. Considered the fastest game on two feet, there is no slow play in lacrosse. It is full tilt and high octane, and at the highest level in the country, the animosity and vitriol is evident.

The Blues have an injury list that seems to be growing by the game. On this night, Barney, Blondie, first-year goalie Macon Jeffereys, and I — a fourth-year defensive midfielder — are unable to play. Many of the Blues on field are nursing injuries too, but playing through pain is nothing new.

The Blues’ entire roster at full strength is only half of the Mustangs’ dressed roster. Leaden legs chase desperately after the Mustangs, who are two-time defending national champions.

Second-year long-stick midfielder James “Chilli” Keane has run ragged into the ground. Play after play, he has hacked, slashed, and stopped one of the most prolific offenses in the league. But in a war of attrition, on this night, the Blues are outmatched. The score ends 21–6. It could have been far worse if not for the efforts of goalie Matt Frola.

In the locker room, there is nothing to say. The team knows. They know that simple mistakes lead to goals. That to beat the Mustangs, they needed to play a near perfect game. Tonight wasn’t perfect, not nearly. But it was a lesson, especially of the type of game that the Blues would need to play to win at Baggataway.

In professional sports, there is an old adage that says athletes need short memories. Through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows they must keep level heads. But as undergraduate and graduate students, the Blues are not professional athletes, and their spirits tonight are low.

Jeffrey Zade is an upper-year student studying molecular biology. With a wicked shot, always low to high, the attackman doubles as the team’s de facto comedian. He gauges the mood on the ride back from London. As the bus rolls through the dark night, past farmers’ fields, construction, and the glare of traffic, Zade slowly but surely lightens the mood.

Back in Toronto, the team steps off the bus laughing, eager to continue their journey to Baggataway.

Two more weeks of sleeps

It’s Wednesday, September 5, and the Blues are scheduled to open their season against Laurier on Friday night.

After a long night of practice, the Blues slow clap and circle up. Water bottles are passed around and ice is given to those in need. They discuss the things that went well, and the things that they need to work on tomorrow. The beauty of practice is that there is always another one tomorrow.

“Three more sleeps!” someone calls out, reminding everyone of the coming game and the dawn of this most important season. There’s a lot of laughter, and some shoving, “Two sleeps, you mean?” More laughter, as the team struggles to figure out how many sleeps until the seventh. After an embarrassing few moments, everyone realizes that it is, in fact, two more sleeps.

The laughter and camaraderie is what makes the Blues special.

Now, for the next two weeks until November 9, the Blues will practice for their 7:00 pm quarterfinal game at Varsity Stadium.

Weeks and months of field practice, work in the gym, and for many, years of playing lacrosse for U of T, are coming together for this final weekend of the season.

Since August, the Blues have practiced day in and day out for Baggataway. They have practiced and played to make sure that, come November 9, they are ready to lay it all on the line.

Baggataway — for the first time in the program’s history.

York Lions defeat Varsity Blues in 49th Red & Blue Bowl

Lions catch fire in second quarter

York Lions defeat Varsity Blues in 49th Red & Blue Bowl

The Varsity Blues football team wrapped up their season with a 31–15 loss against longtime rival York Lions in the 49th annual Red & Blue Bowl on Saturday afternoon.

The Lions’ defense opened up the game by forcing a safety less than a minute into the game. York then managed to grab a 3–0 lead with a rouge point converted by kicker Dante Mastrogiuseppe. In the second quarter, the Blues evened the score by capitalizing on a six-play drive that resulted in a field goal.

Things turned completely one-sided in the second quarter as the Lions’ offense caught fire. Toronto’s defense looked lost as they gave up 28 points in a span of 10 minutes. Wide receiver Luther Hakunavanhu started York’s 28-point flurry with a touchdown catch, thrown by quarterback Brett Hunchak.

The Lions quarterback then connected with his brother, Colton Hunchak, for a three-yard touchdown pass. With less than two minutes to go in the first half, the Lions scored twice to go up 31–3.

Running back Kayden Johnson managed to get in the end zone on a one-yard touchdown run. On the Blues’ following drive, defensive back Kadeem Thomas intercepted Vince Luccisano, giving the Lions the ball back. Quarterback Noah Craney found Eric Kimmerly in the back of the end zone to close out a dominant first half by the Lions.

The Blues’ only touchdown of the game came in the fourth quarter on a run by running back Max Gyimah. U of T closed the game with a 31-yard field goal by kicker Ethan Shafer to make it 31–15.

York’s Brett Hunchak was phenomenal in the game. Hunchak threw for 303 yards along with two touchdowns, completing 26 passes on 38 attempts. Johnson ran for 69 yards and one touchdown. A trio of receivers, Eric Kimmerly, Colton Hunchak, and Hakunavanhu, each caught a touchdown pass.

Blues second-year quarterback Vince Luccisano struggled heavily against the Lions’ defense. Luccisano threw for only 72 yards while also throwing three interceptions. Rookie quarterback David Maecker replaced Luccisano in the third quarter, going five-for-10 for 82 yards and only one interception. Blues wide receiver Will Corby ended the season on a high note with eight receptions for 114 yards.

A pre-game ceremony and 25th anniversary of the 1993 Yates and Vanier Cup was hosted by the Blues to honour graduating players Connor Ennis, Wade Zanchetta, Ryan Grandell, Patrick Pankow, Jordan Sidsworth, Cole Goodfellow, Wacey Schell, Lamar Foyle, Nick Hallett, and Carter Gladman.

The 2018 Blues football season comes to a disappointing end as they were unable to secure a victory, placing them at the bottom of the OUA standings.