When Ontario University Athletics (OUA) came to a screeching halt in March 2020, no one could have anticipated that the entire following season would be cancelled as well. Then, on Oct. 15, 2020, the OUA made a second disappointing announcement that all sports would be suspended until Mar. 31, 2021.
With no organized sports taking place around Canada right now, the recruitment process has been less than ideal for coaches. Gone are the days of sitting on the top of the bleachers to check out the newest recruits. Despite these challenges, Richard Eddy, the UW Women’s Volleyball Coach, has taken a creative approach to staying in touch with his fresh recruits and scouting new ones.
Without the ability to meet face-to-face, Eddy checks out new talent in a very 2021 way. “Our current recruiting continues to evolve through the pandemic, but it is now very common for athletes to send us a video of themselves playing, training or even just working out,” Eddy said. Once he receives the videos, he assesses their performance benchmarks and narrows his list from there.
As for the athletes who had already signed on for the Fall 2020 season, Eddy puts in the effort to connect the whole team over the summer and encourages bonding through group workouts and team building events—all virtually of course.
In normal times, first-year athletes would be fresh off their high school season when they make their varsity level debut. But for the unlucky players who happened to be in their senior year of high school in 2020, they won’t have played organized volleyball for 18 months by the time Fall rolls around.
For Eddy, this means focusing on keeping his players engaged and advancing their game in new ways. Although he anticipates a slow start next season with a delayed “ramping” up to optimal play. “At first we will start gradually with short and less intense practices and then build up into something that looks more ‘game speed,’” Eddy said.
Regarding the effect COVID-19 will have for players in the long term of varsity sports, they’ll get a gift of extended eligibility. While athletes are typically capped at five years of eligibility in the OUA, this season won’t count towards this number, meaning athletes can prolong their athletic career another year.
And for the student-athletes who may be worried about missing a year of development, Eddy has some encouraging words: “Stay positive and stay hungry for that first big match. Think of this extra time as a gift and use it wisely. This is the perfect time to study the game, develop a winning mentality and improve in so many other ways that make student-athletes successful.”