Laurier varsity teams are “excited” as they prepare for a return to sports in the fall
Following the OUA’s announcement in late June, university sports will finally return to Ontario this fall. After nearly 500 days without competition, the Laurier Golden Hawks will return to the field for the first time since March 2020, as the men’s football team hosts the York Lions on Sept. 18.
Student-athletes across both of Laurier’s campuses endured an incredibly challenging year last season as the OUA cancelled both fall and winter sports competitions. Many athletes who are accustomed to weekly practices and live games, saw their routines disrupted without access to gyms and absent competition.
“Student-athletes last year really had the athlete part taken away from them,” men’s football coach, Michael Faulds said. Several Golden Hawk athletes found creative ways to continue their training last season and deferred their eligibility hopeful for a return to play in the fall.
While Laurier did see record accomplishments in academic achievement, with over 100 student-athletes receiving academic honours this past season, many of the varsity athletes are eager to return to their field of play.
“We are super excited. We just started to train, and it has been great already,” men’s basketball coach, Justin Serresse said.
“Our coaches, our players, everyone is excited,” Faulds echoed.
Both Coach Serresse and Coach Faulds mention that practices and intensity for the upcoming season will pick up once September comes. The football team has had monthly OTA’s this summer and various strength and conditioning workouts throughout the past month as training camp quickly approaches, just three weeks away.
Most varsity Laurier teams will see vast changes to their sports’ structure and schedule this year as the OUA prioritized the safety of everyone involved. Both fall term and two-term sports will see a reduction in the number of games played as well as a schedule focused on regional travel.
Our coaches, our players, everyone is excited.Michael Faulds
The Golden Hawks Football team will play a six-game schedule with their longest trip being a short journey to London to face Western. Both men’s and women’s basketball team’s will play a 16-game schedule facing eight different opponents back-to-back throughout the year.
Soccer, hockey and rugby will also see changes to the usual structure as the OUA embarks on an unusual year. Coach Serresse is not bothered by the changes to the schedule but rather excited for the chance to be back on the court.
“16 games is less than what we are used to, but it is not too bad. We were worried about 12 games or less than that,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting; it’s going to bring a new challenge and it’s going to make it fun,” he said.
After 18 months without sports, the OUA has remained committed to a return and has crafted a schedule reducing long travel and overnight stays. Much of their plan remains reliant on provincial health authorities and the province’s reopening plan as they continue to endorse vaccinations, banking on a safe return to sport this fall.
In Laurier’s release, director of athletics and recreation, Peter Baxter commended the Golden Hawk student-athlete population for their “grit, determination and training,” throughout the course of last year’s cancellation.
As Faulds acknowledged, there will certainly be “growing pains after a long 18 months without competition and a transition back to the fast-pace of university sport.”
With the fall term quickly approaching, some questions remain with the OUA’s sports return. It still remains to be seen if fans will be allowed to attend varsity games, as Laurier has not made an announcement. Across the OUA there has been little confirmation about fans and if they will be able to attend the week 1 slate of OUA football games just over a month away.
Vaccine mandates were also a hot topic across the OUA, with Laurier joining several schools announcing the requirement before mid-August. The conference just recently mandated vaccines for all student-athletes from their member schools.
While some questions still remain, Laurier’s teams across both of its campuses remain eager for a return to play this upcoming fall.