The road back to play

How a Stingers hooper has dealt with life in a pandemic

Jahan had a strong rookie season for the Stingers men’s basketball team. Photo Caroline Marsh

Concordia University student athletes have had a tough year. Players such as Sami Jahan have had to adapt quickly, and completely change their lifestyles. Jahan is a second-year student at Concordia and played point guard for the Concordia Stingers in the 2019-2020 RSEQ season. 

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Jahan had a few offers from junior colleges in the United States, but ultimately chose to attend a Canadian university. Jahan had a productive rookie season for the Stingers, scoring 13.4 points per game while shooting 36 per cent from the field and making it onto the all rookie team in the RSEQ and being the Concordia Rookie of the Year. However, his successful season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Not only were they unable to practice the sports, which to this point have been their whole livelihood, but when they come back to the court, it will probably be a lot more difficult after a long hiatus—unlike American athletes in the NCAA. In the American university sports system, sports were put on hiatus for a few months, but for the 2020-2021 seasons schools were allowed to return to play. Meanwhile, in the Canadian system, schools have not been cleared to continue playing in sports leagues and tournaments.

Jahan struggled with not being able to play basketball at first. “For me, it's a completely different lifestyle,” he said. “Obviously, basketball has been a big part of my life. Getting access to a gym has never been an issue before now. Basketball keeps me balanced, it’s a huge source of happiness for me to be able to play and not being able to do that in any way has been a challenge.”

Jahan noted that in terms of his academics there was one notable advantage. “If I graduate in four years, then I would still have two years of eligibility left,” he said, “so I would have a bunch of spare years left over to do a master’s or something like that.” This scenario would see him graduating after the winter 2022 semester. 

“As for a lot of guys who are graduating, normally they would have one year to do their master’s. Now they have an extra year.”

Players may be benefiting off the court by being allowed extra years of eligibility, but a return to the court might be a lot tougher than expected because Concordia is not allowed to run in-person practices and training sessions. 

“The strength trainer gave a whole workout plan. When quarantine first started, we were getting together on Zoom and doing like ball-handling workouts and stuff,” said Jahan.

 However, this motivation slowed down as the pandemic raged on. 

“There was a workout plan that was given to us, but it’s kind of tough because there’s not someone there to help,” said Jahan. “Usually, when we work out at Concordia, the strength trainer Sean [Christensen] has to explain things completely.” 

A return to the court is probably going to feel awkward for some players as well. In Montreal, lockdowns have been strict, and there has been nowhere to go actually shoot the ball unless you owned a basketball hoop. Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors famously was unable to practice before the NBA playoffs because the borders closed and he could not practice in his Toronto condo, which led to him having a poor playoff performance and a poor start to this season. 

There will definitely be an adjustment period for players and teams upon returning, but the Stingers seem to have prepared themselves well for an eventual return onto the court. 

“There’s going to be trouble at first, but I think everyone will have issues at the same time.” Due to social distancing rules where Jahan lives, he is unable to use an indoor gym to practice, and there are no outdoor basketball courts open due to the cold weather. 

Players are clearly disadvantaged coming into this next season of play, but at least there were some benefits, such as the extra year of eligibility to play university sports. While the school was unable to host on-campus practices, it still did as much as possible in order to prepare the student athletes for the upcoming season, whenever that may be.