In conversation with Janelle Joseph

KPE professor talks barriers to access, issues of equity in sport

In conversation with Janelle Joseph

The Varsity got an opportunity to speak with Janelle Joseph, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education who performs research in critical studies of race and Indigeneity in sport. Joseph spoke about many barriers that racialized people face in their local communities, as well as what organizers can do better to address these concerns. 

The Varsity: How did you get into studying race, multiculturalism, and Indigeneity in sport? 

Janelle Joseph: I’m sure I have a few different origin stories. One that probably applies is the fact that my brother was a professional baseball player, and I went to visit him at his training camp. I recognized that most of the players were Black. Most of the coaches were white and, in fact, a lot of the players only spoke Spanish. 

And so my brother was really a minority on the team, being the only Black player from Canada. And it really gave me an insight into how racially stratified sports are, and also how glorified professional sports are. I really started to think about how the systems that we celebrate are the same systems that end up creating racial hierarchies, and I wanted to dig into that even deeper. So that’s part of how I became a sports scholar. Also, as a Black woman I’ve always enjoyed physical activity. My passion has been martial arts, dance, and other physical movement practices.

TV: Can you describe what critical race theory is, and how it applies to sport? 

JJ: So critical theory is a way of understanding the world. Critical race theory views the world with the understanding that we live in basic structures and that there is an ongoing hierarchy that positions white people at the centre of the culture, and creates a hierarchy that marginalizes other groups. These other groups have shifting levels of power, but in Canadian society we generally see that Indigenous and Black people almost always fall at the bottom of those hierarchies. 

Because of that permanence of racism, critical race theory was also dedicated to discovering the stories of marginalized people and figuring out how the structure actually affects them. Mostly these are marginalized voices because they’ve been left out of the mainstream storytelling. So for example, within sports, the national narrative of hockey as a really inclusive coloquial pastime that everyone has access to ignores the fact that, for so long in residential schools, hockey was used as a tool of domination and Indigenous people, generally speaking, have been excluded from hockey in almost all Canadian centres. They’re starting to change now with specific initiatives to promote inclusion, and part of that goes into class, because hockey is such an expensive sport. But that’s just one example of how we need to actually talk to people who are racialized to hear their stories and their versions of events so that we can get a more complete Canadian history. 

TV: What do you think needs to be done to promote more Black and Indigenous people in sport?

JJ: I think there’s a multi-pronged approach that can be taken, and it really depends on the kind of sport or activity that you’re talking about. I’ve been approached by people who are with Rowing Canada and soccer at municipal levels. Those particular sports have usually one or two people of colour, and they see a lot of racism. Those are the kinds of people who often reach out to me for support. And things that can be done is bringing their stories forward and making sure that people understand that when they see discrimination in their sport, it’s not just the result of a few bad apples and some individually racist people. It’s usually because referees, coaches, athletic trainers, and a lot of people in positions of power think it’s just normal.

So making sure that everyone is aware that’s happening, that if there are policies then they are being followed. And if there are no policies in the books, then start taking a structural approach — making sure that every sporting organization has an anti-racism policy. 

It can sometimes get included with an anti-bullying or anti-harassment policy, but you need to make sure that the language about racism is explicit. So it’s not enough to say, “We have an anti-bullying policy.” It needs to be an anti-Black racism policy, and an anti-Indigenous harassment policy. Those things need to be based on that so that people can take those policies, and say that they are experiencing harassment. 

And then there’s also the issue of representation. If your organization has no people of colour on the board, or no coaches or referees of colour, that might mean that you need to do some training, and that might mean you need to go into those communities that have high proportions of youth of colour and introduce them to the idea of refereeing, introduce them to the sport of rowing. 

It’s going to be a long time before you have, say, Black leaders in equestrianism in Canada. If they’re not exposed to that sport and if it remains really class-exclusive and racially exclusive, then maybe we need work on a lot of different levels, from policies, to recruitment, to representation, to being really explicit that if you look around the board and it’s usually dominated by men and dominated by white men, you might need to set some quotas and might need to set some targets. 

Say “we can do better,” and, given that you are operating in the province of Ontario at the very least, you could add to match some of the racial demographics of the province or of the city on our board. And that includes gender demographics and other intersections such as disability or LGBTQ+ status. It’s important to remember that people of colour come in all different shapes and sizes and they need to recognize those intersections as well.

TV: What kind of challenges do you believe Indigenous people face in getting involved in sport? 

JJ: It really does depend on the area that they’re living in, first and foremost. So if Indigenous people are in remote areas and some of the issues they have come down to access, are there enough people to make up a team? Do you have the type of equipment that you need? Do you have the facilities that you need? You might have an idea that you want to start a basketball league, but do you have the gym space? Do you have the competitors and the coaches and the officials? 

All of the structural elements that go into generating sporting opportunities are limiting rural communities, and many Indigenous people in Canada are living in rural communities. So that’s one factor. But we also have many Indigenous people in our urban centres. In Toronto, some of the barriers that Indigenous people are facing do stem from racial exclusion. 

Assumptions being made about what kinds of activities they’ll be good at or be able to do. For Indigenous people, there are barriers connected with their ancestral cultures. They’d love to have opportunities to do Indigenous activities, dances, and Pow Wows, and those opportunities may not be made available to them. So they not only have to be athletes or physically active, but they may also have to be entrepreneurs and business organizers, and they need the leverage organization to get the space and the time to do the kind of activities they want. 

TV: What about immigrants and newcomers to Canada? What kinds of challenges do they face? 

JJ: I think there are a lot of similarities. Sometimes for newcomers, the biggest challenge is around finances and sense of economic status. And so they might not be able to afford the physical activities that they would prefer because their first priorities are food, shelter, and making sure that they can take care of the basics. 

We know that a lot of immigrants, when they come here, their qualifications and education combinations that they have come from are not honoured, or not recognized. And so you might have someone who has an engineering degree or a medical degree, and then in Toronto they’re driving a taxi cab or working in a factory. And so they don’t have the kind of income that would lend them to participate in sport because of their income or free time. 

We should lead them to participate in the kinds of activities they want, particularly for the next generation raising their children in the kinds of activities that those children are supposed to play. There’s also a language barrier sometimes, and they might not even be aware of the opportunities that are available because English is not their first language. Some local community centres have not made an effort to advertise their services in multiple languages.

TV: What do you think the media, including student media, can do to better foster inclusion and multiculturalism in sport? 

JJ: One of the things — and I’ll bring it back to critical race theory — is to ask those people. We have so many pockets of, for example, Somali communities. Where are they shopping? Where are they hanging out? How could we go to those communities, and figure out what it is that they need? Because if you don’t have those people on your boards and in positions of decision-making power, then you’re not going to know what those communities need. 

So the first thing that the media could do is profile the stories of those communities and ask them what they need. Profile all the good work that’s happening. I know of a few different Muslim women sports opportunities that have popped up in the last couple of years in the GTA. So rather than only printing stories about how these communities don’t have access, or don’t do enough physical activities, and blaming them for their own sedentariness, figure out when and where they actually are doing these things.

This article has been edited for length and clarity.

Dashed dreams: Varsity Blues veterans talk nationals cancellations amid COVID-19 pandemic

Graduating athletes cherish accomplished university careers, despite disappointing end

Dashed dreams: Varsity Blues veterans talk nationals cancellations amid COVID-19 pandemic

We are all living in a new ‘normal’: as U of T students, we have watched our lectures and tutorials move online with varying degrees of success. We have witnessed our graduations and end-of-year showcases get put in potential jeopardy. We stood by as our beloved clubs, intramurals, and extracurricular activities slowly dwindled away. Most jarringly, we are living in a time of deep uncertainty surrounding what the future holds, and how we will navigate it.

For some Varsity teams, however, part of their future is grimly set in stone: players watched their championships vanish before their eyes, robbing them of the chance for a moment of glory at the national level. Their most ambitious goal of the year, one they fought tooth and nail and beat the masses for, disappeared.

For men’s volleyball, it was their first chance at a national title. For women’s hockey, it was a chance at an equally elusive U SPORTS title. Similarly, the women’s volleyball team had to watch their national championship disappear. The Varsity reached out to some graduating players from these teams to discuss how they are responding to a tumultuous and disappointing cap to their careers.

“The team has had an amazing year, finishing first in the league and winning the McCaw Cup. We definitely had a chance… to be National Champions,” wrote hockey veteran Cristine Chao. Chao is title-holder of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Defender of the Year, Most Sportsmanlike Player, and First Team All-Star awards.

“To have it end abruptly just like that… just shocked me. I didn’t know that the game on Thursday was going to be my last hockey game ever as a part of the University of Toronto Women’s Hockey program.”

Andrew Kos of the men’s volleyball team, a veteran who has competed on the national and international stages for beach volleyball, shared Chao’s sentiment: “It is obviously quite disappointing. Having it be my last year, it was an unorthodox way to end my varsity career, but nevertheless quite memorable.”

Decorated volleyball veteran Alina Dormann is similarly disheartened. She had to anticlimactically cap off a Varsity Blues career that boasted national and provincial team experiences as well as multiple titles of OUA East First Team All-Star and U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian.

“It was definitely a challenging end to the season, to have it end so suddenly and not have the opportunity to compete for the national championship, which is what we had been working towards all year,” Dormann admitted. The team had even travelled to Calgary, where the nationals would have been hosted. After training for two days, they were “feeling very confident and ready for the weekend.” Then, before the games could begin, they were on a flight home and the season was over.

Despite these dashed dreams, there is a common understanding that these cancellations are necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some graduating athletes chose to cherish the memories of being a Blue that they do have, rather than focus on the ones that could have been. “At least we were able to win OUAs this year,” Chao reminisced. “The feeling that I had at Varsity Area that night is a memory that I will never forget.”

Dormann has chosen to adopt a similarly positive outlook: “As a team, we have been focusing on enjoying the journey that led up to that point, as nationals doesn’t define our team or take away from all the other amazing things we have accomplished this year.”

She added that as she leaves her years as a Blue behind, she will “keep the focus on all the incredible experiences and times I have had as a Varsity Blue throughout the last five years, rather than the disappointment of not being able to compete with my teammates one last time.”

Swimmer Kylie Masse signs with ISL’s Toronto Titans

The U of T alum will compete for the Toronto expansion franchise in the 2020–2021 season

Swimmer Kylie Masse signs with ISL’s Toronto Titans

After one season with the Cali Condors in the International Swim League (ISL), Varsity Blues swimming alum Kylie Masse is coming home to Toronto to compete for her home city’s new expansion franchise.

Masse is an Olympic bronze medalist, a previous world-record holder in the women’s 100-metre backstroke, and a two-time world champion in the 100-metre backstroke. The Toronto Titans are one of two expansion franchises in the ISL’s second year of existence.

Their general manager, Rob Kent, is also a former U of T swimmer. In an email to The Varsity, Kent praised the ISL’s members, calling each a “star.”

“It is much harder to make an ISL team than it is to make the Olympic team, for the simple reason that there are fewer spots and the competition for those spots is much tougher than it is even to make the Olympics. So that is the base level you are working with, the best of the best, just to get in the door.”

Kent wrote that even within this competitive group of swimmers, Masse stands out, as she is one of the best in the world: “So to say that she is a key signing is an understatement.”

Masse is the first major signing for the Titans, but they hope that she is not the last.

“Kylie was our first announcement, but there are plenty of other Canadians and international swimmers to be announced over the next few days too,” Kent wrote. “And we are signing more almost every day.”

Among the names that ISL hopes to bring over are Penny Oleksiak, who won four medals at the 2016 Olympics, as well as Kayla Sanchez, Sydney Pickrem, and Kelsey Wog.

Although Masse is an exception, many swimmers do not have agents, which makes the recruitment process much different and less formal than that of other professional sports leagues.

Kent says that many general managers do not have a direct point of contact to the athletes whom they are hoping to recruit, and are discussing with coaches to figure out who knows the swimmer.

He also noted that he didn’t need to sell Masse too hard on the idea of coming back to Toronto. “Clearly you have to make a good financial offer, but any team is capable of doing that, and we are under a salary cap, so that part is even,” Kent wrote.

“I just believe that if you lay out all the pros and cons, on top of a good financial offer, then you will end up with the swimmers that really want to be there, and aren’t there just for the money.”

Masse’s agent, Elliott Kerr, added that Masse mainly wanted to come home. “Everything that Kylie does, says Canada first,” wrote Kerr in an email to The Varsity.

“She attends a world class university here, she receives world class coaching here, she enjoys world class facilities here and her family is here. Many world class swimmers travel south of the border, but Kylie chose Toronto. It made total sense to me that she became a member of the Toronto Titans.”

Kerr corroborated the rather unique process that is behind recruiting in the ISL. “When I first heard that Toronto had secured an ISL franchise, I immediately reached out to Rob Kent to discuss the possibilities. It was very clear to me that a Toronto franchise would be interested in Canada’s world champion.In concept I was intrigued, but I needed to be convinced that solid ownership and management was in place.”

“After my first meeting with Rob, I knew the Toronto franchise was in good hands.”

Women coaching women: “You just need to be resilient and persevere”

In conversation with Varsity Blues women’s basketball coach Michèle Bélanger

Women coaching women: “You just need to be resilient and persevere”

Coaching in varsity and professional sports has consistently been dominated by men, even on women’s teams. While professions that have been historically dominated by men, like medicine or law, have been working to increase the number of employed women, professional coaching has not had the same progress. As of now, women only account for 16 per cent of coaches at the university level, and that number has been declining in recent years.

The Varsity recently interviewed Michèle Bélanger, who’s been the head coach of the Varsity Blues women’s basketball team for the past 41 years. She discussed the importance of the acceptance of, and representation for, women in the field of coaching, and shared advice for younger women who are looking to find a career in sports management.

She also spoke about her strong belief that women’s sports teams should be coached by women.

“I believe that women should coach women, and women have to see, and young girls have to see that when you see a female coaching that those are options for career goals and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Bélanger continued, “When you don’t see women coaching at a higher level, then there’s assumptions that those are not female driven careers, and that it’s never going to happen.”

Research has shown that women are discouraged from even entering coaching jobs in the first place.

While men will often disregard job requirements and believe that they are more likely to learn on the job, women are less likely to apply if they do not meet the qualifications when they’re applying. Similarly, much of the language used in job advertisements can be perceived as being catered toward men.

Bélanger’s assertion is in line with what is recommended by the Government of Canada. The Minister of Science and Sport’s Working Group on Gender Equity recommends that more women coaches be hired in women’s sports. Men sponsoring women’s sports and the hiring of women coaches can go a long way in the development of professional leagues.

For younger generations of women looking to go into a profession in the field of sports management and coaching, Bélanger stressed the importance of not getting discouraged or disappointed if they don’t fit in or find the perfect opportunity.

“Know that with every day, there’s changes that are being made and you just need to be resilient and persevere and speak up to what you believe is right. Have a voice and just be willing to make the sacrifices, because they are really important for generations to come.”

How university athletes deal with stressors

KPE Professor Katherine Tamminen on how parents, coaches help athletes to cope

How university athletes deal with stressors

Varsity athletes often have a large amount of stressors to deal with that are different from those of other athletes. They often have to balance school, sport, and other factors in their personal lives. Professor Katherine Tamminen from the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education studies the abilities of adolescents and university aged athletes to deal with stress in sport — and helps them face it in a healthy way.

Tamminen said that parents and coaches can play a huge role in how athletes deal with stress by “helping them learn to cope with [it],” she said in an interview with The Varsity. “And they also influenced the type of stress that they might experience. So parents and coaches might also be a source of stress for athletes… I think it’s a bit of a double-edged sword there.”

Tamminen also emphasizes that this topic is very nuanced, and that there is no one universal answer when it comes to dealing with stress in younger athletes. “There are some strategies that may be more useful in some situations whereas other strategies are going to be more useful in other situations,” she said.

“It really comes down to the type of stressor that the athlete is facing and then selecting the most appropriate coping strategy to use when dealing with that stressor.”

“If an athlete is having problems with their performance or a skill or something technical, seeking information from their coaches and from their teammates or spending more time working specifically on that skill in practice is likely going to help them to deal with that performance issue,” Tamminen said.

“But if the issue is an ongoing conflict with a teammate or if it’s an issue in a conflict with a coach, or if it’s a stressor from outside of sports that they’re dealing with, like academic demands or they’re dealing with health concerns from a family member, those are going to require different coping strategies.”

However, some athletes deal with things that they have no control over, to which Tamminen recommended dealing with one’s emotions instead of trying to control the situation. She advised “seeking social support or re-appraising the situation and trying to see the positive side of things. Practicing mindfulness.”

She continued, “These can also be very helpful strategies, whereas in situations where they have more control over the stressor, then they might do things that are more active and problem-oriented.” She said that athletes may need to spend more time on these problems, and seek out additional information.

When asked what the most important thing she learned in her research was, she highlighted the importance of social support and having people to turn to.

“The importance of having either a close friend, a teammate, a coach, a parent, somebody that you can confide in and talk to and turn to is so important. It comes up across every single study that I think I’ve ever done in this area… the importance of that social connectedness that people, that athletes have.”

What the ‘ruck’ is underwater rugby?

How a U of T swimmer rose through the ranks to make the national team

What the ‘ruck’ is underwater rugby?

On Friday evenings at the Riverdale Collegiate Institute’s pool, the water may look empty — but a practice is in full swing just beneath the surface. That’s because at 8:00 pm sharp the Toronto Underwater Rugby Club (TURC) gathers to tough it out underwater for a strange and wonderful iteration of an otherwise straightforward sport. Practicing alongside is U of T Varsity swimmer Hannah Hermanson, who teamed up with Toronto Varsity Blues alum Melanie McDonald to join Team Canada at the Underwater Rugby World Championships in July and August of 2019 in Austria.

“I was initially shocked at the opportunity, but knew I couldn’t pass it up,” said Hermanson. As a Varsity swimmer, she realized that many transferable skills from her main sport could be useful for underwater rugby, including breath-holding and kicking underwater. Once she met the coach and some players at the next practice, she knew she was hooked.

“I was immediately intrigued by the uniqueness of the sport, and the opportunity to be a part of the first women’s team to compete internationally,” she continued.

Underwater rugby isn’t just playing the same rugby underwater, however. The game is played on the floor of a swimming pool. Players throw a ball filled with saltwater that is susceptible to sinking, and there aren’t scrums like regular rugby: teams start at opposite ends of the pool, and dash to the centre to get possession. Points are scored by tossing the ball into the opponent’s basket. However, there is still tackling allowed, but it’s only legal to do so to a player in possession of the ball. As the Toronto club is an inclusive, co-ed space, it can get pretty intense under the surface, but the water softens the blows to make the sport relatively low-impact.

Hermanson quickly fell in love with the unorthodox sport and soon found herself in Austria for the World Championship. “Trust and friendships grew within a very short period of time, making the whole experience all the more memorable,” she recalled.

“After games, the team would meet at the hotel and watch game footage for future improvement and receive feedback from each other… Walking along the cobblestone streets and eating schnitzel, or exploring the hidden secrets of the city while not competing, completed the surreal experience,” said Hermanson. The team found themselves in 13th place at the end of Canada’s first-ever appearance at the competition, and each teammate from across Canada brought home lifelong memories.

For those interested in a break from traditional sport, Hermanson said that “if you love being in the water but also the intensity of land sports, underwater rugby is perfect for you.” The TURC holds regular practices that they announce on their Meetup page for anyone interested; who knows, you may end up on the national team!

COVID-19 delays Europa League Round of 16, but predictions must continue!

Sevilla vs. Roma highlight of fixtures, Leverkusen likely to advance with ease

COVID-19 delays Europa League Round of 16, but predictions must continue!

The Europa League Round of 16 — the second tier of European club football below the UEFA Champions League — has been postponed due to COVID-19.

In both the 2016–2017 and 2018–2019 seasons, I correctly predicted six out of the eight Round of 16 results, however in 2017–2018, my success was a meagre four out of eight. For consistency’s sake, I thought I’d predict what would happen if the tournament didn’t get suspended, or what will happen if it continues in the future. Hopefully these predictions are more accurate than streaming FIFA 20 to decide matches, as some clubs are doing.

Sevilla-Roma and Wolfsburg-Shakhtar Donetsk look like the most tightly contested fixtures of the round. The first legs were played on March 12, and the second were to be played on March 19.

İstanbul Başakşehir vs. København

Both teams enter this match having achieved mixed results in the group stages, and neither were favourites to progress beyond their Round of 32 ties. Still, İstanbul Başakşehir overturned a 3–1 first leg deficit against Sporting Club de Portugal in remarkable fashion, while København dispatched the Scottish champions Celtic 4–2 on aggregate. Başakşehir have faced far tougher opposition than København, and have thus developed stronger defensive resilience. København have no real attacking threat — they have scored the fewest goals of the 12 remaining teams that started in the group stage — and they are unlikely to overcome their opponent’s narrow organizational structure. İstanbul Başakşehir win.

Olympiacos vs. Wolves

Wolves’ 17-goal haul in the competition proper is more than that of any remaining teams, and they have better players than Olympiacos in virtually every department.

Olympiacos will be buoyed by their victory over Arsenal in the previous round, and have every reason to believe they can cause Wolves trouble. However, with Wolves’ solid defensive line marshalled by Captain Conor Coady, Olympiacos will likely pin their hopes on their top scorer Youssef El-Arabi to create magic. Even then, Wolves’ forwards Diogo Jota and Raúl Jimenez have performed reliably in Europe with nine goals apiece, and will likely prove too much for the Greek side to handle. Wolves through.

Rangers vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Steven Gerrard deserves plaudits for guiding his unfancied Rangers outfit thus far in the Europa League with some solid, if unspectacular, performances. This is Rangers’ best season in Europe since the 2010–2011 season, but their progress is likely to come to a grinding halt against the in-form Leverkusen.

Leverkusen finished third in a tough Champions League group containing Juventus and Atlético Madrid, after dismantling Porto in their first Europa League contest, with Lucas Alario and Kai Havertz particularly standing out. The German team tends to dominate possession — they averaged 60 per cent against Porto over two legs — and they make full use of an impressive press.

In recent weeks, Rangers have all but blown their chances of winning the Scottish Premiership with a stunning collapse in mentality that also saw them knocked out of the Scottish Cup, meaning that the Europa League is the last trophy they are still realistically competing for. If they want to progress they will need to be at their organized best and ensure that Alfredo Morelos and Ianis Hagi take full advantage of any chances they can carve out. However, given Leverkusen’s meticulous match-management and their stronger squad, the German team should win.

VFL Wolfsburg vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

On paper, Wolfsburg and Shakhtar look like very evenly matched sides. Wolfsburg Manager Oliver Glasner has turned his defense into a consistently disciplined unit while implementing an intense high press. Shakhtar Manager Luis Castro has likewise set his team up with defensive resilience at times this season, but his team often sit back patiently and hit opponents on the counter-attack. The two contrasting styles of play should have made this an entertaining duel, and success will hinge upon each team’s ability to stick to their game plan and avoid individual errors. Shakhtar to sneak through, courtesy of their more dynamic midfield.

Inter Milan vs. Getafe

Inter enter this game with a greater sense of expectation, which they owe to their high expenditure on players this season and Manager Antonio Conte’s credentials. Inter fans have been itching for a first-place trophy since the 2010–2011 season, and with the team still in the running for Serie A, the Coppa Italia, and the Europa League, Conte’s men are targeting an ambitious treble. Strikers Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez regularly dominate the headlines, but Inter have a number of other impressive players who, on paper, should outmatch their Getafe counterparts.

Getafe have been impressive both domestically and in the Europa League so far this season. They claimed a noteworthy victory against Ajax in the previous round, but have otherwise struggled to impose themselves against stronger teams. With Conte’s tactical astuteness and his host of star players, Inter should be able to book their quarterfinal spot.

Sevilla vs. Roma

This matchup is arguably the most exciting of the round, as both Sevilla and Roma are European heavyweights who harbour realistic ambitions of winning the competition. Sevilla have had more impressive results in the competition, but have faced much weaker opposition, so this tie is very open. Sevilla are adept at managing the ball and retaining possession, while Roma often set up in a compact and organized structure.

Given the similarities in tactics and ability between the two sides, control of the midfield and workrate will have a huge influence in determining which team progresses. Sevilla seem to have the edge in both departments. That said, Roma look unlikely to qualify for the Champions League through their domestic league, meaning that they may view this game as an all-or-nothing to save their season. In what could be decided by a coin flip, Sevilla to progress.

Frankfurt vs. Basel

Even though Frankfurt have fallen off the high standard they set for themselves last season, they have retained many of the tactical fundamentals that made them so successful. Like the other two German teams in the draw, they operate with an intense high press. Their inconsistency this season stems from opposition matching their intense press and barraging their flanks.

Basel do not play this way, nor do they seem capable of maintaining a high-tempo game. That said, they have shown that they are ruthlessly efficient and can capitalize on any errors that Frankfurt may make. Finding a middle ground between pressing Frankfurt enough to force mistakes and maintaining their own system of play will be essential for the Swiss team to get something out of this tie. In what could be a very close affair, Basel to pull off an upset win.

Linzer Athletik-Sport-Klub vs. Manchester United

Despite Manchester United’s inconsistent form this season and their at-times startlingly fragile mentality, the January addition of Bruno Fernandes looks to have improved their ability to assert control over the midfield, which will be a big boon to their forwards Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, and new boy Odion Ighalo.

Linzer Athletik-Sport-Klub (LASK) have been quietly impressive, however — right wing back Reinhold Ranftl in particular has demonstrated his creative ability with four assists and a goal in the competition. Manchester United’s defense may struggle to cope with LASK’s 3-4-3 formation, particularly given goalkeeper David De Gea’s increasingly shaky performances. To win, United need to play on the front foot and take advantage of the space between LASK’s full-backs — speedy winger Daniel James may be a useful option — while remaining diligent with possession. United to progress.

Editor’s Note (March 16, 7:03 pm): This article has been updated to correct that the games have been postponed, not cancelled.

Several U SPORTS Championships cancelled due to COVID-19

National champion in men’s and women’s hockey, volleyball called off

Several U SPORTS Championships cancelled due to COVID-19

The U SPORTS national championships for hockey and volleyball were cancelled for the 2019–2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time that the David Johnson University Cup, awarded to the national champion of university men’s hockey, or the Golden Path trophy, awarded to the university women’s hockey national champion, will not be awarded in their respective 58-year and 22-year histories.

The Varsity Blues women’s volleyball team, men’s volleyball team, and women’s hockey teams had qualified for the U SPORTS championship games after the women’s hockey and volleyball teams won the Ontario University Athletics championships, and the volleyball men’s team finished second. However, the women’s hockey team had already been eliminated by Mount Royal University.

The women’s volleyball championship was set to be played in Calgary, and the men’s was set to be played in Winnipeg. As of March 15, there were 39 cases of COVID-19 in Alberta and four in Manitoba.

“Over the past 24 hours, many things have changed in sport across Canada and it’s a really difficult position to be in as these types of important decisions impact so many people,” U SPORTS Chief Sport Officer Lisette Johnson-Stapley wrote in a statement. “Our host committees have worked tirelessly for two years on these events and we thank them for their support and the great experience they wanted to provide for the student-athletes, coaches and officials as well as family, friends and fans.”

The men’s and women’s hockey championships were cancelled after Hockey Canada called off all sanctioned activities due to the pandemic. The women’s tournament was being held on Prince Edward Island, where there is currently one case of COVID-19. “As [a] proud partner of Hockey Canada, we understand how difficult a decision this was to make,” Johnson-Stapley stated, regarding the hockey championships. “We understand the disappointment felt by our student-athletes, coaches, officials and wonderful hosts however the decision was made with the best interest of all participants in mind.”

U SPORTS has also stated that it will refund any tickets that people had bought in advance.

Several other professional and collegiate leagues and tournaments have been either suspended or outright cancelled. The NBA, NHL, Major League Soccer, and several European soccer leagues, including the Premier League, have suspended their seasons, with little clarity on future steps. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States has cancelled all winter and spring championships, including March Madness — their profitable men’s volleyball tournament.

The NCAA will, however, grant another year of eligibility to athletes who compete in spring. There is little indication on how these leagues and tournaments will continue if the status of the pandemic changes, or if any changes to eligibility will be made for U SPORTS athletes who have been affected.

The Varsity has reached out to the Varsity Blues for comment.