If these past few months have taught us anything, it is that life as we know it can change very quickly and very dramatically in a very short space of time. Cities that once teemed with life have shuddered to a halt, hospitals across the world are stretched to breaking point and billions of people are experiencing life through the lens of a government mandated lockdown.
Within these unprecedented times, there has been a strange feeling hanging over the sporting world. What once provided escapism and excitement for billions, now finds itself, understandably, in a limbo of sorts. No one would argue that sport is essential, even important, in this current timeline but it is undeniable that the cancellation of leagues and events across the world has impacted large swathes of the population. For a couple of hours each week, fans got to witness life at its unpredictable best. Unparalleled highs and unfathomable lows, sometimes all in the space of a single game. Sport may be just a game to some but for others, it is truly a microcosm of life, one consistent aspect that underpins their everyday existence. And so, while it must fade into the background for now, sport will rise again.
For the student-athletes themselves, this is not just a time for reflection, it is either a time to rest and recover or prepare for whenever their next game might be. With the AUS soccer season tentatively scheduled to start in September, U-Sports Rookie of the Year and Capers star forward Alliyah Rowe says the team is preparing accordingly.
"There is a lot of uncertainty in the future but like Coach Ness says 'it's not the most technical or fit team that will win the championship but the most prepared,' so me and the other girls are staying fit and still practicing for September, just from the comfort of our homes."
Along with physical preparation, it is also essential for players to maintain good mental health by staying in touch with friends, family, and teammates during the lockdown. With Zoom, Skype and WhatsApp quickly becoming an essential trifecta for social contact in quarantine, Rowe says the players are doing their best to stay connected.
"We are handling it well. We are still trying to maintain our fitness while being indoors and have a group chat to share workouts and different drills that we can do at home. We talk on WhatsApp and attempted to play some card games online with some technical difficulties, but we do like to keep in touch and facetime each other when we can."
For coaches, life in lockdown has not only affected their day-to-day activities but also the way in which they connect with their players. Motivator, mentor, leader, confidante- these are just some of the roles a coach has to encompass, and in a profession that is judged on flexibility, the requirements of the job have undoubtedly shifted once again. Fabian McKenzie, head coach of the Capers women's basketball team is of the belief that athletes need to be supported at this time instead of being further pressured to perform.
"One thing I will say on this now is that our athletes may have fears or uncertainties in their head about what is happening in the world. They don't need the added stress of mandatory programs right now. A workout plan that helps them de-stress and look after their mental health is most important. Something they can control by doing it at home or something like a light run near their home. If we told them to do certain things like a heavy workout regime, they might feel stressed that it needs to get done or they risk losing a spot on the team. We need to support the athletes right now and help limit their stress. We can help build the physical at any time, now is the time to give them a mental hug and help them through this."
Uncertainty is, arguably, the number one facet that makes this current situation so difficult to adapt to. With travel restrictions and lockdown orders in place indefinitely there is some confusion as to whether the Capers soccer season, which is scheduled to begin in September, will go ahead as planned. Ness Timmons, head coach of the CBU women's soccer team remains ambiguous as to whether the season will kick-off in September but emphasizes the need for perspective in a time where sport is merely a footnote.
"At this point, we are on schedule to begin training camp in late August and to play our first game as scheduled. I do see things are being canceled into the summer now, so I am sure we will know more in the coming weeks. For now, its status quo. But sports are just games. There is a much bigger picture. It should be a time when we all put things into perspective."
Echoing Timmons' sentiments, Coach McKenzie explains that, despite the upheaval of the entire sporting calendar, there are greater powers at play and the athletic community must step up to help those in need during this global crisis.
"This is where perspective comes into play. I will miss out on all of the summer activities with our national team, our offseason activities, March Madness, the NBA playoffs etc but who cares! Sport is a great development tool for young people, hugely impactful, but it's a small slice of society. We are dealing with something that very few people have ever experienced. We all need to put things into perspective and do our part to help with this pandemic."
So, whilst sport remains locked in this indefinite state of uncertainty, we must all consider Coach McKenzie's call to arms and ask not what our friends, families, neighbours, teammates, and colleagues can do for us but what we can do for them.
Cape Breton University (CBU) launched CAPERS at Home, a new online program that will deliver activities, challenges, and games to encourage people of all ages to stay home and stay active. The initiative is a partnership with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's (CBRM) Recreation Department and Active for Life program.