Optimism outweighs doubt as Stingers prepare for fall return

Players and staff excited to get back despite lingering concern over pandemic

Stingers teams began training for the fall season in August. Photo Esteban Cuevas

As the university gears up for its first online semester, questions remain regarding Stingers’ athletics as the fall seasons draw near.

An online semester means there will be no need for students to return to the university physically to attend class, with the odd exception.

The suspension of in-person classes has no effect on Stingers operations, so student athletes will have to return to Montreal should they wish to compete in the upcoming season for their respective sport. While all fall national championship competitions have been cancelled, Stingers teams will be preparing for their respective domestic seasons as expected.

For athletes like Stingers’ soccer defender Kate Evoy, who is one of many athletes from outside Quebec, the idea of getting back to the game she loves outweighs her fears surrounding COVID-19.

“I feel fine about coming back for soccer. I was a bit cautious and a little nervous at first, so I’m just trying to keep myself as informed as I can,” Evoy said. “With the new info coming out, I’m feeling more comfortable returning to play.”

The Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec announced that its member schools can resume extracurricular sport competitions beginning Sept. 14, meaning that Concordia’s teams can at least begin their seasons.

The men’s hockey team, however, will not be competing this fall, after the Ontario University Athletics association cancelled sanctioned sport programming until the end of 2020.

Greg Sutton, the head coach for both the men’s and women’s soccer teams, remains optimistic that the process to return to play will be a pleasant one. “[There are] a lot of players from out of town,” Sutton said. “We want to give them a good base so when soccer starts again, they can hopefully be ready to jump into that.”

Recruiting new players to his teams, he admitted, was a challenge due to the circumstances.
“We’ve lost out on a couple of potential recruits simply because they didn’t want to leave where they were,” Sutton said. “It hasn’t hurt us that much though, since we did most of our recruiting prior to the outbreak.”

“All of our coaches quickly adapted to online recruiting and promoting our programs and teams.” – D’Arcy Ryan

There does remain cause for concern with anyone travelling from their home back to Montreal for the upcoming season. In 2019, there were 101 Concordia student athletes who were originally from outside Quebec, 12 of whom were American.

For new Stingers recruits, particularly those from outside Quebec, the COVID outbreak meant it was no longer safe for students to attend in-person recruitment meetings with schools, which usually consist of interviews and workouts to assess potential additions. U Sports and Concordia were quick to act, however.

“U Sports had set out guidelines fairly early on and actually had put in place a moratorium on in-person recruiting. All of our coaches quickly adapted to online recruiting and promoting our programs and teams,” explained D’Arcy Ryan, director of recreation and athletics.

Ryan noted that student athletes have shown a great deal of enthusiasm to get back to playing the sports they love. That’s not to say players will put themselves at risk should they feel they’re in an unsafe environment.

Stingers soccer midfielder Emilie Côté, while excited for the season, remains concerned for her health and safety. As someone leaving home in Ottawa to return to Montreal, she is concerned about the risks to herself and those like her with weakened immune systems. Côté hopes the school will take any precaution available to keep athletes and staff in good health.

“Just asking if you have symptoms isn’t enough. Some places have been checking temperature, but I think we should just do full on COVID testing,” said Côté.
“In Ottawa, we have testing centres, and you can just go whenever, so I feel testing athletes would be very helpful in preventing it from passing along,” she added.

While there is no word on whether athletes will be subjected to regular COVID testing, Ryan ensured that the school is abiding by strict guidelines to avoid any potential outbreak amongst the Stingers.

“We are following closely the guidelines that are set out by the CNESST [Quebec’s board of labor norms and safety] and the provincial sport organizations, along with the environmental health and safety department at the university, to make sure that we are putting safety of the students, staff, and others first,” Ryan said.

This article originally appeared in The Disorientation Issue, published September 8, 2020.