By Donald Higney
On June 8, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) announced the cancellation of all conference-sanctioned sports and championships until Dec. 31 due to COVID-19.
According to the OUA’s FAQ, the decision to cancel fall sports was made in June to keep students safe and to give them enough time to adjust their plans accordingly.
Cancellations across Ontario have impacted men’s and women’s cross country, soccer, football, field hockey as well as women’s rugby. For Ryerson, this means both the cross country and soccer season are over before they started.
Ryerson’s fall athletes are now left wondering what will happen next for their respective teams.
“I’m definitely gutted about the decision,” said Brooke Pearson, midfielder for the Ryerson women’s soccer team. “Any athlete would be upset about a season being cut short or canceled.”
The other conferences in Canada also cancelled fall sports the same day the OUA did. The Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec is the only conference that has not released their plans for the fall.
Hockey and volleyball also lost their national championships last season due to the pandemic.
U Sports also announced that athletes would still be eligible for their financial scholarships this academic year and would not lose a year of eligibility, in spite of the lost season.
For seniors expecting to graduate in the fall, the decision hits a little harder. With the cancellation of the season, the opportunity to play university athletics for one final season has been taken off the table.
“It was hard to hear considering this season would’ve been my last year as a Ram,” said Ryerson men’s soccer midfielder Abdallah EL-Chanti. “I expected it because so many sporting events and leagues have been canceled…but when it gets put into words it becomes a reality.”
Like EL-Chanti, Marin Scotten was not surprised by the announcement. As a member of both the cross country and women’s basketball team, she is one of a few student athletes that play sports year-round.
“It’s very disappointing but I don’t think anyone is that surprised given that school has moved online for September,” said Scotten. “The idea that we could have cross country meets with hundreds of people where everyone’s sweating on each other, it just didn’t seem that realistic.”
The decision from the OUA is expected to remain in effect regardless of potential decreasing COVID-19 cases during the fall term. However, the OUA has also stated there’s a possibility for fall sports to run in spring 2021 or in a “form of modified delivery” February to May according to the OUA’s FAQ.
Despite athletes being off the field for the rest of the year, some of their goals still persist.
“Staying fit and being always ready to play is the priority for our program, we’re always working,” said EL-Chanti. “Once we are allowed to train we will immediately get back to the field, whether its individual based training or in smaller groups.”
If no championships take place in the upcoming academic year, all U SPORTS athletes will retain a year of eligibility. The decision behind cancelling sports has not changed the choices that some student athletes like Pearson make when it comes to their program at Ryerson.
“I will most definitely stay and I think most of my teammates will do the same,” said Pearson. “Our classes have not been postponed and those who want to stay on track to graduate will have to continue through online learning.”
While EL-Chanti isn’t sure if the OUA made the right decision in cancelling fall sports, he said he understands the reasoning behind it.
“We won’t really know if it was a great decision until the future,” said EL-Chanti. “Maybe I can come back in the 2021 season and possibly win a championship in my last year. A lot can and will change between now and September but of course student’s health matters.”
Scotten added that it is better to be safe than sorry. “You can’t really compare sport and what we do in terms of competition to the severity of a global pandemic,” she said.