Collegiate athletes putting pro dreams on hold amid COVID-19 cancellations

KITCHENER —
Many athletes playing at the university level don’t know if they’ll be able to get back onto the field this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario University Athletics announced the sports season will be cancelled until at least next spring, which is forcing some athletes to put their professional plans on hold.

“It is very disappointing, kind of sad,” said Mitch Ogilvie, who plays lacrosse for the Guelph Gryphons.

Ogilvie was drafted in the fourth round of the 2020 NLL entry draft by the Rochester Knighthawks. Training camp was supposed to start next month.

“We don’t know when training camp is going to start, or if it’s going to start or when the season is going to start,” he said. “Everything is just on hold.”

That means no games and no tournaments.

“We lose the opportunity to gain that skill and experience a little bit more,” Ogilvie said.

Fall sports were already cancelled because of COVID-19.

“The decision was made on the best sports science and information from public health,” said Peter Baxter, director of athletics and recreation for Wilfrid Laurier University.

There are still some practices, but not as many as before the pandemic. Athletes don’t wear uniforms and don’t have access to the buildings.

Clare Gagne said practice is all she has left. She plays volleyball for the Waterloo Warriors.

“Practice is my game time,” she said. “It’s where I need to show up, perform, get better, learn, grow.”

This is Gagne’s final year, so trying to go pro could be difficult.

“You have to get an agent or join an agency who would try to find a team to play,” she explained.

Local universities said they will continue to support athletes without a season through practices, virtual sessions and consultations. Practice sessions started on Oct. 5 and will continue throughout the year.

Scott McRoberts, director of athletics with the University of Guelph, said the cancellation has been tough on student-athletes and the university as a whole.

“However, our goal remains to keep the physical and mental health and well-being of our student-athletes the priority as we navigate every decision made regarding the ability to return to sport,” an emailed statement from McRoberts said in part.

The Gryphons will also continue training under the guidance of local public health officials.

“We’ll also review in January if there’s an opportunity for local exhibition play,” Baxter said.

Unless the cancellation is extended further, play could resume in April 2021.

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