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‘A bit of a loss’: U of C student-athletes reflect on life without U Sports

University of Calgary Dinos guard Reyna Crawford (21) carries the ball past half court during a game against the Brock Badgers during the second half of quarterfinal U Sports Final 8 Championships basketball action in Ottawa, on Thursday, March 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Professional sports leagues and some American universities have returned to play since shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Canadian student-athletes are still forced to watch from the sidelines.

U Sports cancelled its fall and winter national tournaments because of the pandemic.

Men’s and women’s basketball, hockey, swimming, track and field, volleyball and wrestling were all impacted. Roughly 20,000 student-athletes participate in varsity sport at 56 schools across Canada.

That uncertainty has left University of Calgary athletes and coaches scratching their heads about what to do next.

Sara Craven. Credit: UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY/David Moll

Like many athletes, fifth-year women’s hockey player Sara Craven is setting herself up for a career after hockey.

“I’m in the process of obtaining a Master’s degree in business management right now,” said Craven, who is still training with her teammates to help them prepare when U Sports returns.

“This is my final year of schooling. So for myself career-wise and life-wise, it’s going to be time for me to move on at the end of the season, unfortunately.”

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The Dinos forward says even though her athletic career is wrapping up, she wants to give back to the game in her hometown in Montana.

“The girls’ game there is actually exploding, which has been pretty cool to see,” she said. “So I think giving back to people and programs that mean a lot to me will be my future with hockey.”

Tobi Adelodun. Credit: UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY/David Moll

Tobi Adelodun, a guard for the men’s basketball team, is also starting to plan for next year.

“I’m finishing my degree this year, but I’ll still have another two years of eligibility,” said the fourth-year student. “I was just trying to figure out the best route to take from here.

“So what I ended up doing is I applied for my Master’s in data science – something that’s substantial for myself next year, while coming back and still being eligible to play at the same time.”

After winning the national championship back in 2018, the Haskayne School of Business student believes his side could have returned to the final this year as well.

“We had greater expectations of ourselves in terms of knowing our identities and how our chemistry worked as a team,” said Adelodun. “And I feel like there was no reason why we couldn’t end up being U Sports champions again.”

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Things have also changed for Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren, who is no longer permitted to observe recruits in person.

“In the current environment, we’re not allowed in as spectators,” said the men’s basketball coach. “So it’s been an interesting go of it, for sure. Those are challenges we’ll have to overcome.”

Alyson MacDougall. Credit: UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY/Don Voaklander

Wrestler and women’s rugby player Alyson MacDougall said it was upsetting to learn U Sports would be cancelling the fall and winter seasons, even if it wasn’t much of a surprise.

“We all saw it coming, but nobody was really prepared to undergo what not having a normal season would look like,” said MacDougall. “It’s kind of sad. You feel a bit of a loss.”

Even though seasons and championships were cancelled, the team was still able to practise outdoors while following public-health guidelines.

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“We got the opportunity to be with the team and see each other and be outside,” she said. “We’re all super grateful that we still had a little bit of rugby to play. Even though it wasn’t what we wanted our season to look like, we’re still super grateful that we got to train and play together.”

And although there wasn’t a season, MacDougall knows there is a bright future for the game and her career.

“It’s been really neat to see all the girls from Canada going overseas to play, especially in England,” she added. “There are a lot of us moving out there. I can definitely see myself doing that in the future.”

–with files from The Canadian Press

FULL INTERVIEW with women’s hockey player Sara Craven

FULL INTERVIEW with men’s basketball player Tobi Adelodun

FULL INTERVIEW with wrestler and women’s rugby player Alyson MacDougall