By Justin Walters
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused uncertainty in almost every aspect of university life. For first-year athletes, the pandemic has presented new challenges they had never envisioned facing.
Ontario University Athletics (OUA) cancelled all fall semester sports on June 8. While sports like hockey, basketball and volleyball have the possibility of starting up in the new year, fall-only sports like soccer will likely not see the field this school year under any circumstances.
It’s not yet known when or even if OUA sports will be up and running again anytime soon. That uncertainty didn’t slow down the recruiting for the Ryerson Rams.
“How can you not love downtown Toronto?”
Jacob Carlos, one of the Rams men’s soccer team’s newest additions, said he didn’t worry too much about the pandemic when making his decision to come to Ryerson. Carlos said he loved the school and the opportunities he would have playing here, and wouldn’t let the pandemic get in his way of becoming a Ram.
“Ryerson has some great facilities,” he said. “I like Filip [Prostran], the coach, he’s great. And how can you not love downtown Toronto?”
Of course, an athlete’s decision on a school doesn’t solely depend on the athletic component. Other factors such as location and education often play a role in their decision making process.
“[Ryerson is] a great school for me to learn at. I want to have a career connected to sports in some way and Ryerson’s sport media program opens the door for me to do that,” said Rams women’s basketball recruit Kaillie Hall. “In terms of basketball the team has such a great culture and is so young and talented.”
Hall is transferring to Ryerson from Bowling Green State University, a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One school in Bowling Green, Ohio. Hall said she’s relieved to be playing in Canada, even if she doesn’t see the court this year.
“The two countries have handled [the pandemic] differently in terms of protocols,” said the Hamilton, Ont. native. “It would be tough to see my family if I was playing in the States. I feel comfortable moving to Toronto in September.”
Kevin Gursoy is one of the newcomers to look out for on the Ryerson men’s hockey team. Gursoy spent the last three seasons playing out east in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. When he received his offer, it was already too late to be able to visit campus. However, a virtual tour was enough to convince him to commit to Ryerson.
“After I saw the campus and all the facilities, it kind of made it a no-brainer,” he said.
Gursoy mentioned that since then, the administration has made an effort to communicate regularly with the athletes.
“They keep in touch with us on a weekly basis, letting us know about any updates on training, skates or when we might see us get back to playing games.”
Aside from a lack of game time, another obstacle for OUA athletes is finding the motivation to work out from home.
“After I saw the campus and all the facilities, it kind of made it a no-brainer”
Hall said she was lucky enough to have a fantastic support system from her parents, who really helped her with keeping active during quarantine.
“My mom and I would do a lift together every night. If I wanted to go on a run, my dad would follow me on his bike. If I wanted to go outside and shoot around, he would drop everything and come shoot with me,” said Hall. “They know it’s been hard lately, and it’s been great to have them there with me.”
The athletes’ hope is that at some point in the near future, OUA sports will make a return and fans will be able to cheer on the Blue and Gold. In the meantime, Carlos had a message for his fellow Rams.
“Stay safe, keep checking up on the latest news with the Rams and please come support us when it is safe to do so. Without the fans we are nothing.”