Laurier winter term sports cancelled as OUA and USPORTS prioritize health and safety

The Ontario University Athletics conference (OUA) following significant consultation with the national USPORTS body has announced that all OUA sanctioned sport programming has been cancelled through March 31st, 2021. 

The decision follows suit with the past announcement made on June 8th, which cancelled fall term sports up until December 31st of this year. 

“While we would love nothing more than to see our student-athletes back on the field of play and participating in OUA sanctioned competition, we are not yet at a place where that can occur safely,” Gord Grace, President and CEO of OUA said in his announcement of the cancellation.

In line with the previous decision and many of the provincial health guidelines in place, this announcement was made to ensure the health and safety of not only the student-athletes but the hundreds of other officials, administrators, reporters, fans, etc… 

The decision by Ontario’s sport conference also does not differ much from the decisions made by the other university sport conferences across the country. Reseau du Sport Etudiant du Quebec (RESQ) conference have put their sport programming on hold until at least January 15th, while a return to play for winter term sports is unlikely. The Canada West (CW) conference have announced a similar cancellation to the OUA’s, announcing that all sports have been postponed until March 31st. While the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference has been the most lenient on its restrictions, having not decided on a cancellation yet, while currently considering regional competition for the winter term. Given the success of the Atlantic bubble covering New Brunswick, P.E.I and many other provinces, the AUS remains the most hopeful. 

The decision by all four of these conferences led to the USPORTS announcement on October 15th that it would not be able to offer 2021 winter national championships due to the ongoing pandemic. 

The sports directly impacted by the cancellation that would have had competed the majority of their season in the winter, including the national and provincial championships include; basketball, hockey, swimming, track and field, volleyball, wrestling and curling which had already been suspended by the Curling Canada Federation. 

“It is not logistically possible to be travelling across the country at this time. Therefore, we are in the unfortunate position where we are unable to offer the 2021 winter championships, Dick White, interim CEO of USPORTS said in his statement. 

The chief medical officer of USPORTS, Dr. Taryn Taylor who is overseeing the task force on return to play initiatives has stressed the importance of sports restrictions during this second wave of Covid-19. 

Taylor is concerned abut the rise of cases across the province of Ontario and Quebec as well as the country as a whole and recognizes that without a readily available vaccine, varsity sports and the several conditions in which need to be in place to play varsity sports can not occur. At the national level, given that USPORTS had nine winter championships scheduled in nine different parts of the country, the decision to cancel had to be made in order to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved. 

While other sport leagues across North America including many universities that are members of the NCAA have resumed play, the OUA and Laurier are in a different scenario. 

The OUA lacks the resources and money that many of these other top leagues have and with a sharp increase in cases across the province, it would not be feasible to travel around the province for sport games. 

While the cancellation has eliminated the entire 2020-2021 sport calendar, Laurier will continue to remain committed towards offering the best experience for all of their student-athletes during such unprecedented times. 

While many varsity teams have been allowed for a phase return to train, the OUA also announced that Laurier among all other OUA varsity teams will have the decision to involve themselves in some exhibition games or other competitions later in the winter. 

In addition, the OUA announced that they will continue to monitor Covid-19 and reserve the right to make any changes to this announcement based on the progress that has been made regarding the pandemic. 

Laurier football Coach Michael Faulds was not surprised when he heard the news as he has long stated that sports and this virus may not be able to co-exist without an accessible vaccine.

“I tend to be a super optimistic guy, but being completely honest and transparent with you, I don’t see sports and especially team sport being able to exist while this virus exists,” he said. 

Coach Faulds falls in line with Dr. Taylor in his concerns about the spread of the virus in sport, especially with the increase in cases and without a vaccine. 

“My fear is that until a vaccine is readily available and accessible, team sports will take a back seat,” Coach Faulds said back in September at the time of the first cancellation by the OUA. 

The announcement is certainly disappointing but viewed as expected to many of the varsity coaches around Laurier along with their student-athletes who they had mentally prepared for such an announcement. 

While disappointing, some athletes and coaches may find some solace in the fact that many of the Golden Hawk teams have began to return to campus and are engaging in limited training opportunities. No matter how restricted, many of them are relived to be back on their field of play. 

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