Training in the time of COVID-19: Women’s hockey’s return to training on campus
Increasing COVID-19 restrictions and the cancelation of all sports by the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) has left student-athletes unable to properly train on campus.
With the cancellation of both Fall and Winter sports, the OUA has outlined a phased comeback for on-campus training that allows members to create their own program following provincial and school health regulations.
The phased return to training on campus has restricted the women’s hockey team from partaking in any team training for the first two months of the fall semester. Head Coach Kelly Paton has been navigating the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions to keep her player safe while still meeting the requirements of their training.
“I think just being flexible with the all the adjustments being made by the provincial government, our return to train plan has varied as the fall semester has gone on — we had to make adjustments to suit the needs of putting safety at the forefronts”.
Training in the time of COVID-19 looks very different from normal training for both the players and coaches. The Women’s hockey team had already missed their last three weeks of their spring training due to the pandemic and now missing on-ice training as a team.
To combat the increasing restrictions a full virtual approach was adapted to allow student-athletes to complete their training program at home. This online approach includes an app that players can use to access their training program as well as a weekly virtual training session in coordination with the team’s strength coach.
The virtual training program is not an exact replacement for in-person training, as many student-athletes do not have access to a full gym as they do at the Laurier Athletic Center.
“We really had to make adjustments to what a traditionally training program would look like just knowing some of the limitations of weights and accessibility to them”.
The adjustment of sports in the era of COVID-19 has been unique for the existing members of the Women’s Hockey team and coaching staff, but for the eight new recruits, this will be their first time participating in university level sports.
“It’s just unfortunate that they fall in that year of the transition of the pandemic and even with the online learning component it’s been really challenging to manage four to five courses online as well”.
In the 2019-20 season, six of the players graduated leaving a gap to be filled. The exceptional rookies will be trained heavily online making them an extra special first-year class.
“I feel for our first-year class specifically, as their experience this far I consider a little unusual —it obviously it wasn’t the norm of what to expect as a first-year student-athlete— but under the circumstances, they’re doing a really good job of staying engaged”.
Head coach Paton was eager to train with the new recruits on the ice as the team received the go-ahead to begin on-ice training this week, but the increasing COVID-19 cases in Kitchener-Waterloo has pushed the region into the ‘red zone’ affective Monday, leaving the team to remain in its current stage of return to training on campus.
“On a coaching level we would really like to get on the ice with them and start working with them in terms of a development scheme so we can prepare them for next fall, so they are better prepared for the transition to university level sport”.
As the team is no longer allowed to participate in on-ice training, the coaching team is revising their training program to put safety at the forefront and also meeting the requirements of indoor training demands.
The regulations surrounding COVID-19 are constantly changing and are being monitored closely by the Athletic Department to ensure safety is the priority.