Durham College has opened its campus doors this year and student-athletes can finally welcome back some competition.
The Lords varsity teams have not played since COVID-19 arrived in Canada in March, 2020.
The suspension of varsity athletics was challenging for players, coaches and fans. Ken Babcock, Durham College athletic director, said, “COVID created a situation where we had to step outside our normal roles and create all kinds of new policies.”
Although there were no games played last year, DC athletes did train when COVID-19 protocols allowed. Varsity games have returned this fall, led by the women’s softball team, which won the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association championship.
Babcock said there is “lots of pressure” to make sure DC is following COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and policies. Athletes have to be fully vaccinated to be on campus, he said. Currently there is no limit on how many athletes can attend practices, according to Babcock.
Fans are allowed to come watch their favourite sports live. Durham College can have 75 per cent of their max capacity, said Babcock. For the Campus Cup soccer game, between Durham College and Ontario Tech, the athletics department decided it would be best to start with 500 fans.
Babcock was excited that “competition is back” but wanted to start at 500 and see how it went. “It seemed a little more normal” is how Babcock described the Campus Cup returning.
Fans are also required to do a COVID-19 screening before going to any games. This screening is the same that is required to enter the Durham College campus for in-person classes, according to Jessica Ferreira, a second-year student and member of the women’s soccer team.
She took a year off from her studies last year and returned this year to her nursing program and her attacking midfielder and striker positions on the team.
Ferreira said COVID-19 “didn’t make that much of an impact” on soccer as it returned to the field this fall. The biggest impact was on transportation to road games.
“We can’t travel with both the men’s teams,” she said. Before COVID-19 the women’s and men’s soccer teams would travel to away games together but since returning this has changed.
Equipment cleaning did not change. Balls and other equipment aren’t cleaned any more frequently then before, according to Ferreira. Masks must be worn at all times except when athletes are on the field of play.
“I’m pretty excited just to go to provincials travel a little bit far away, you know, especially during COVID we haven’t had a lot of that,” said Ferreira earlier this season.
Durham finished the season with 10 points in six games with a record of 3-2-1 and did not advance to provincials.