Pandemic forces cancellation of fall sport seasons

Special to Western News

Western Sport and Recreation has a robust return-to-play plan that will inform coaches and student-athletes on how and when they can safely train and compete on campus and in-person.

University sports regular- and post-season games across the country have been canceled for the fall term due to concerns about the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches, administrators, officials, and fans during the ongoing pandemic, U SPORTS and Ontario University Athletics (OUA) announced June 8.

Despite the move to pause competition until the start of the year, however, Western remains committed to its student-athletes and the important role sport will play post-COVID.

“While this news is a disappointment for Western and our Mustang community, we support the decision in light of the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented,” said Christine Stapleton, Director, Sport & Recreation. “We recognize travel between schools is uncertain at this time, and ensuring the safety of our campus community remains Western’s top priority.”

U SPORTS, the national governing body of university sport in Canada, worked with provincial governing bodies on the decision. Along with the OUA’s announcement, similar action has been taken by Canada West and Atlantic University Sport, both of which announced the cancellation of their respective first-term sport schedules. A decision from the Quebec Student Sports Federation is expected in the near future.

“Even though we will not have the opportunity to celebrate our student-athletes on the field during the first term, they remain at the heart of what our organization is about and we will continue to work toward achieving a safe return to play when the time is right to do so,” said Gord Grace, OUA President and CEO. “Through these exceptional circumstances, I know that the entirety of the OUA will continue to show that we are one.”

Despite the cancellations, Western coaches are preparing for Western’s mixed model for academic fall semester, which will include regular training sessions and exhibition games, where permitted.

All scholarship commitments to student-athletes will be honoured.

“It is important to recognize the role sport plays at Western – it is the tradition and spirit at the core of our university. Sport will play a pivotal role in post-COVID recovery plans,” Stapleton said.

Sport competition is only one small piece of what Western offers to its students. Sport training and preparation continues, and the university will offer a wide range of activities to support students and student-athletes, including:

  • Virtual support from coaches to maintain high-quality athletic training adjusted to meet the constraints of physical distancing;
  • Care for, and investment in, student-athletes to ensure their overall wellbeing;
  • Live webinars for all students;
  • Open tryouts for all students when permitted;
  • Strength and conditioning sessions; and
  • Mustangs Digital Series with live fitness classes, video personal training sessions, video massage therapy exercises, live video chats with coaches, and articles about new recruits and award winners.

U SPORTS and OUA officials said no decisions on competitions have been made beyond the fall term.

“We remain hopeful that we can provide quality experiences for our student-athletes starting in the New Year and will be closely monitoring the ongoing health considerations and viability for these future opportunities over the coming months,” said Mike DeGagné, Chair of the OUA Board of Directors. “We are committed to delivering OUA sport once our provincial public health authorities indicate it is safe to do so.”

Western Sport & Recreation has a robust return-to-play plan that will inform coaches and student-athletes on how and when they can safely train and compete on campus and in-person.

“Western is a tight-knit community fueled by the pride that comes with the Mustangs identity, and we look forward to the day when we can come together to compete again,” Stapleton said.