What the cancellation of OUA sports programming means for Laurier Athletics

On June 8, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) announced the cancellation of all OUA-sanctioned sports programming and championships.

The cancellation, which was made based on provincial public health regulations, will be in place until Dec. 31. 2020.

“It’s for the health and safety for our student athletes, our coaches, all our staff  — including the student staff that have to work to kind of present the games all the time —all our fans, and the community at large,” said Peter Baxter, Director of Athletics and Recreation at Laurier.

“So, we’re no different than the rest of the world in terms of having to follow those public health and government protocols.”

The OUA stated that decisions have only been made for the first term, due to the evolving discussions and regulations around COVID-19. Decisions for sports programming delivery beyond Jan. 1 will be made later in the year.

Cancellations have been made for sports programming nationally, with Atlantic University Sport (AUS), Canada West and U SPORT making similar announcements.

While Laurier’s Department of Athletics and Recreation has been closed since Mar. 16, Baxter explained that virtual resources and training sessions for student athletes are still in place.

“Even our sports medicine staff will still hold their virtual appointments with athletes, we’ve been monitoring strength and conditioning on Zoom calls,” Baxter said.

“Our staff is up to the challenge of providing athletics and recreation programming virtually, and once our facilities get the ‘okay’ by government regulations and so forth, as well as the university to open up, we’ll be there and those plans have been in place for quite a while now.”

Recruiting has not slowed down either, explained Baxter, as there is still a lot of film to look at and coaches are still able to do recruiting through Zoom calls.

“In some cases our coaches say the Zoom calls — where it comes to strategy and tactics and film — are actually better served than being in a dark room in the stadium in one of the classrooms doing film work.”

Some coaches are encouraging incoming student athletes to use the cancelled season to transition academically to university, to train and learn the playbooks and get ready for an eventual return to sports, Baxter explained.

“I really feel for all the student athletes but particularly for those student athletes, as well as students, that will be graduating next year (as) they won’t have the regular student experience on campus.”

Athletic scholarships will be maintained as usual over the course of the year, as long as students are achieving their minimum academic standard and are registered in the required number of courses.

While the fitness facilities are still closed, staff are working to determine what areas of facilities can re-open within the restrictions of social distancing.

“We’ll have to see by mid-summer where the government is (at) in terms of opening different facilities,” Baxter said.

In the meantime, recreation options will be in place for students virtually.

“We’re gonna introduce a few other programs to engage students. E-sport is gonna be something that we will certainly be launching and working on this summer to be able to engage people at least online in that capacity,” Baxter said.

“We’ll be doing a lot of virtual classes like we have been, and our numbers are actually quite good. They’ve been steady with our student leaders that are instructors in yoga, group fitness, the HIIT classes that have been going on and so forth.”

Laurier Athletics will also be partnering with the Wellness Centre to host wellness activities for students.

The decision regarding mandatory athletic fees for the Fall will be made when Laurier Athletics is made aware of facility potential re-openings, with input from the Students’ Union and Graduate Students’ Association.

The Laurier Athletics and Recreation Fee — an incidental fee for both graduate and undergraduate students —was waived this past spring term as a result of COVID-19.

“Decisions on fees and so forth are always done in conjunction with the two student governments,” Baxter said.

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