Ontario Tech, Durham College count on varsity sports returning next school year

The Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre, home of many varsity athletics at Durham College and Ontario Tech. Photo credit: Courtesy of Ontario Tech

Ontario Tech University and Durham College athletics staff have already begun to prepare for a potential return-to-play for the 2021-22 school year.

Due to COVID-19, both OTU and DC lost out a whole year of athletics. They say they are prepared to do whatever is necessary to get these student athletes back to competing.

There have been discussions within the OCAA (Ontario College Athletic Association) and U-Sports, which oversee all post-secondary athletics in Canada.

“In terms of anything concrete, there’s nothing,” said Durham College sports information and market coordinator, Jordon Hall. He said they’ve been told it’s very hard to come to a decision so early.

However, Durham College athletes have also been on campus getting conditioned for the potential upcoming season.

“When we have not been on lockdown, we have had our athletes coming in and training,” said Hall. “Things are trending in the right direction., I think there’s a lot of optimism for September.”

Meanwhile, OTU has also not wasted any time when it comes to athletes being able to train and get prepared. The gym is open and some athletes have already been training.

“Whether it be training in the gym, at the rink, on the field, or in the weight room, and as the season ramps up closer to the fall training camps, we’ll start formally as the students are back in September,” said OTU sports director, Scott Barker.

Many precautions and even format or rule changes will have to be followed by these athletic programs if they get back up and running.

Barker said to bring sports back could require changes to formats and divisions.

“Do formats and divisions need to be refined to work around regional travel, or do we need to be reducing the number of games that we fit into a season?” said Barker, referring to some of the questions that need to be answered.

Another question is whether teams travel or have fans at games.

“Maybe overnights are off the table, maybe your just playing teams in your geographical area,” said Hall. “I don’t think that question [possibility of spectators] has been broached as much, I guess the focus is more on return to play.”

There have been discussions around shortening the season if government officials decide it is not safe to start in September, and to begin later in the winter or even spring, according to both sports programs.

“Still start in the fall but start a few weeks after Labour Day or a condensed season. There’s been lots of talks about solutions,” said Hall. “The meetings in the summer is when all of the will be hashed out.”

But this is bittersweet news for athletes who lost their final season.

Some of student athletes had already played their last ever game due before the COVID-19 pandemic and will no longer be returning next year due to eligibility.

“Seeing a couple of these athletes that had their last year be the pandemic year it’s just kind of crushing,” said Hall. “We just don’t want to see a repeat of that. To lose another full season would be tough for post-secondary athletics.”

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