Golden Hawks Football and Basketball teams focused on “improving” through return to train
The announcement made in mid-October to cancel the OUA season was surely disappointing but also much expected.
Both Coach Faulds who runs the men’s football team and Coach Serresse who heads the men’s basketball team had themselves and their players mentally prepared for the cancellation and the teams have benefited greatly, making the most out of their phased return to training.
“You always want to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I was hoping we would have a chance to have some type of competition, but also I was mentally prepared and strategically prepared to not have a season and to think about what that will look like,” Serresse said.
Following the first week of October, many Golden Hawk varsity teams were given the go ahead to return to campus for limited training. Although the year will conclude without any competition, Serresse and Faulds see this step as pivotal in helping their players develop and gain skills.
Faulds realizes how different the practices and training look, however, stressed the importance of getting back on to the field.
“At least it’s something for us coaches and players to get excited about. A little bit of normalcy after the previous six-seven months that we had without football,” he said.
Similarly, Serresse is excited to be back with his players on the court. The green light granted to the men’s basketball team teams was refreshing news for Serresse as he has been concerned with a trickle-down effect that could happen to student-athletes, if they are not motivating themselves to get better.
Many student-athletes are routine driven and the impact of not being able to work out at the gym or practice with their players could also interfere with their academic life. This was of particularly concern for Serresse and he is thrilled to have much of his team back together.
“It’s really just a social distanced training. We are following Canada and Ontario Basketball guidelines. Basically, we are allowed to share baskets and basketballs, but we can not play defense or have close contact.”
The basketball team is focused on developing their skills and getting better as a team through this limited training.
“What I wanted to focus on right now was skill development. Not just for our rookies, but also for our older players, I think some of them could use the time to really perfect their craft to a level that is even higher than where they were. I’m very excited about this part of the journey,” Serresse said.
In terms of the restrictions in place, the men’s basketball team is lucky to be playing in the athletic complex which has three courts. Serresse called this a “blessing” given the amount of space the team has to spread around the 19 players who are training and helping adhere to the restrictions.
Faulds points to the cancellation of in-person classes as evidence towards the expected announcement by the OUA. The men’s football team was allowed to return to University Stadium as of October and the players have been finding a good balance with the return to train as well as their classes.
Faulds and his staff have broken his roster of 100 up into groups who practice at different times. With the nice weather in October, the football team was practicing three times a week.
“There are protocols of course in place. We have broken our team up into 30 person pods. Were out there in equipment and no contact,” Faulds said.
Applauding the effort of his players, Faulds said that, “everyone is getting use to adjusting and finding ways to get things done. March was a long time ago and no longer can you make excuses, you just have to find ways,” crediting many of his players for their dedication and balance with their athletic and academic commitments.
While acknowledging the complex difficulties that the OUA had to face with undergoing a sports season this year, both Serresse and Faulds remain optimistic about a return to real competition next fall.
“Obviously, next year we are expecting the health situation to be better,” Serresse said, while Faulds stated that he does think it is possible to play sports even through this pandemic. Both coaches point to the anticipated arrival of a vaccine and the impact that will have for society as a whole.
“If there’s a vaccine readily available as we get into 2021, then everyone’s optimism goes much higher,” Faulds said.
While the 2020-21 season will conclude with no varsity sport competition, Serresse stressed that the OUA needs to focus on returning to play next year as many jobs across the province, not just the coaches and players, depend on it.
“The OUA has got to be ready to return to play next season. One season off would be ‘fine’, however two seasons would be dramatic. Thousands of jobs could be lost because we weren’t able to figure out a way to keep the competition going,” Serresse said.
USports and the OUA are surely aware of the impact of another cancellation and what that would do to their respective leagues and have said they are committed to developing a plan for competition to resume.
The Golden Hawk Football and Basketball teams as well as a variety of other varsity teams will continue to hold limited practices throughout November as part of Laurier’s phased return to train.