MONTREAL – COVID-19 has turned sports-study programs upside down and the transition to the “red zone” in some regions has banned all sports matches. This year, is sports studies an impossible mission?
Not for young high school athletes from Charles-Lemoyne College, on the South Shore of Montreal. They remain focused on their goal, the draft, which takes place this year for them. But there is a catch: without matches, they lose opportunities to showcase themselves in front of scouts.
“We will adapt,” says Victor Brault, a secondary 4 student-hockey player at Charles-Lemoyne College, on the city of Sainte-Catherine campus.
Sport in schools – including sports-study programs – has been subject to all kinds of restrictions since the start of the pandemic.
And when regions were declared “red zone” by Public Health, it sounded the death knell for matches for student athletes in such programs. No more playing football, soccer and hockey when physical contact is prohibited.
It’s “boring” not to be able to play, judge Lucas Sauvé, a high school student and a Midget Espoir level hockey player. “We hockey are passionate about it,” said Victor Brault, to explain the general disappointment, he who started playing at the age of 3.
“I miss games and competitions,” added Lucas, 15.
But he is not angry either: “You can’t be angry at something over which you have no control,” he says wisely.
COVID-19 has brought about all kinds of changes in the way they practice their sport and their sports-study program.
At the start of the school year, the young people were able to play games without having to travel too far. Shorter than usual, with a reduced number of players and only with those in their bubble-class.
“It was different,” explained Jean-Simon Houle, another secondary 4 hockey player, also at the Midget Espoir level like his two teammates. It wasn’t our entire team, and we couldn’t get to know the other players on the team. ” What is important to evolve well on the ice, confirm the others.
Then, with the passage in the red zone, everything stopped. Except training. Which is a big difference from last year: at that time, young people were playing hockey games every weekend. In green, yellow and orange COVID zones, sports parties are permitted with certain restrictions.
Without matches, without competitions, are they afraid of developing less as players? And to fall behind?
No, they all said in individual interviews.
“Often, we progress more in the practices”, explains Victor, who is assistant-captain of his team. “This is where we develop our skills, opines Jean-Simon: We are not going to be less good because we have no games.”
On the other hand, it is the competitions which “keep the team together, which tighten it and which help it to grow”, he believes.
In these practices, they do individual exercises on the ice – non-contact, keeping their distance – and practice throwing the puck at the net, making precise passes, and improving their skate, among other skills.
Since they go to school in person every other day, these are the days when they can do their training with their skates.
They even say they find a positive point in it: this formula gives them more time to study their other subjects. For many of those young athletes who dream of an American college or college draft, grades are very important.
Andreï Délinois is also a student in sports studies at the Collège Charles-Lemoyne. In secondary 5 this year, his sport is football.
His mother, Lysa Villeneuve, finds it a shame he hasn’t played yet this year. “He has zero football games to his credit.”
And she sees her disappointment when the games are canceled at the last minute due to the tightening of sanitary guidelines, after all her preparation. The 16-year-old footballer once went to bed early for his game the next day, but when he woke up he had an email announcing that it would not take place. “Every time he had to play, something happened.”
“As a parent, we wonder if we can keep them on the right line.”
But she finds with pleasure that the absence of a match has not had an impact on her academic motivation. And then, the football coaching team found good ways to adapt training, she says.
His son trains on his own on the days he is out of school. And study very hard.
“It’s targeting the United States,” she explains. The academic requirements are high, so he is working very hard towards this goal ”.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has come at a crucial time for these young athletes.
For Jean-Simon, Victor and Lucas, who are 15 years old, this is a very important year, that of the hockey draft, especially by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (LHJMQ).
It is also a key year for Andrei in football.
The one who will bridge their dreams.
They were impatiently awaiting recruiters who were to come and watch them play and make them offers, sometimes very attractive.
But there is no match.
“It affects our future in a way,” explains Victor.
Not playing hockey games on the ice prevents us from showing off, adds Jean-Simon.
But he understands the situation, and the imposition of restrictions for health reasons, he adds immediately: “if my grandmother had COVID, I would be really stressed”.
If no one has seen her son Andrei play this year, Lysa Villeneuve is not worried about his chances of recruiting, and neither is her son: “He has a very positive attitude,” she said.
And then, “her name is already known, although you never know,” she adds immediately.
She points out that she has not had a video of him in action on the field since the start of the school year. At that age, young people are developing exponentially from one year to the next: he is no longer the same athlete as last year, adds Ms. Villeneuve, who would not want to use the recordings of the last. season.
For now, the youngsters continue to train and hone their skills – awaiting a return to play. But their fingers crossed that health restrictions don’t go into overtime beyond October 28, hoping may their entire season not be canceled.
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