DC, Ontario Tech athletes practising (sort of) during pandemic

AJ Cummings brings the ball up the floor during an Ontario Tech men's basketball game last year. Photo credit: Courtesyy of AJ Cummings

The cancellation of sports for colleges and universities in Ontario has forced many student-athletes to put the ‘athlete’ part aside for the 2020-2021 school year.

Durham College has not yet permitted its sports teams to practice on campus.

Ontario Tech is a slightly different story.

Ontario Tech men’s basketball player AJ Cummings has been able to practice with his teammates this year, but not in the way you might think.

The team has not had a single basketball practice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the team has had workouts in the Campus Fieldhouse.

Cummings, 19, says the sessions consist of endurance, agility, and resistance training. He says the main focus of the workouts is “constant movement”. The workouts take place Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Safety protocols are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while they use the fieldhouse and Cummings is used to the routine everyone on the team must follow.

“When you walk into the building, you have to keep your mask on at all times. When you first go in you get screened at the door, and they take our temperature,” he says. “When we walk into the actual dome, we have to keep our mask on but when we’re working out, we have the option to take our mask off, as long as you’re six feet away from someone.”

The Ajax, Ont. native can’t practice basketball in a gym with his teammates, but he’s managed to get shots up. Cummings has had several workouts with his former Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball coach in private gym sessions. He is required to wear a mask during the workout, but the 6-foot-3 guard knows the importance of actual basketball workouts.

“I’m very eager to get back to our gym. As a basketball player, you can’t really take six months without getting in the gym because you’ll come back very rusty,” says Cummings.

School-wise, he is a second-year Criminology and Justice student at Ontario Tech.

Although this year may be waste of time for some athletes, Cummings understands how important it is to work hard.

“I know what my goal is, even though there’s no season, it’s up to me to keep myself, my body in shape because a call for a pro team can come at any time,” says Cummings. “I’ve got to be prepared for that call or even be prepared for next season. If I take a year off, that’s just messing up my goal.”

For Durham College athletes Kaelin Wright and Courtney McKellar, they’ve had to find their own ways to stay in shape without team practices.

Wright, 19, is a second-year Business Marketing student who plays for the Lords Women’s Soccer Team.

Kaelin Wright dribbles the ball up the field.
Kaelin Wright recorded five goals in seven games for the Lords during the 2019 season, including a hat-trick against Loyalist College in the regular-season finale. Photo credit: Kaelin Wright

The team hasn’t had any organized meetings or virtual workouts this year, but according to Wright, head coach Alex Bianchi has been in contact with the team through email.

As far as training goes, Wright has briefly trained with her former soccer club, Durham FC, during the pandemic but has stuck to the basics during the school year.

“Every so often, I’ll find some old friends and we’ll go to the field and kick the ball around, but it hasn’t been a set schedule of working out,” says Wright.

McKellar, 20, is a third-year Biotechnology Advanced Program student at Durham and a member of the women’s softball team.

Courtney McKellar gets ready to make a play during a softball game.
Courtney McKellar's favourite memory while playing for the Lords is finishing second at the 2018 Women's Softball Nationals in Saskatoon. Photo credit: Al Fournier/Durham College Athletics.

Like Wright, McKellar’s team has had no practices, but she has taken it upon herself to stay in shape by doing cardio and full-body workouts.

This would’ve been McKellar’s final year at DC, and she was disappointed to find out she wouldn’t be playing this year.

“I really wanted this year to be special, and to go out with a bang. For it to end the way it did it sucks but I respect the decision that was made,” says McKellar.

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