By Madalyn Howitt
For the second year in a row, the sports fields outside Algonquin College will remain conspicuously quiet this fall.
In a July 7 statement, the Algonquin College Students’ Association announced that the school’s rugby and soccer teams will once again not participate in the varsity season.
The student union at Algonquin is responsible for running the varsity sports programs, and this factored into its decision to suspend the season, the statement explained.
“At the deadline for determining student fees, due to the uncertain nature of the fall semester, the SA could not support billing all students a fee for varsity programming that may or may not happen,” it said in part.
Featuring a mostly-complete lineup of colleges across the province, the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association season will begin on Sept. 17, while the Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens returned to the pitch this past weekend for university rugby matches.
The absence of a regular sports season at Algonquin has left many in the athletic community feeling disappointed.
“I think ‘devastated’ is probably the word that sums it up best,” said Basil Phillips, who was set to enter his third season as head coach of the Algonquin women’s team when the pandemic hit.
“Last year was tough, but it was kind of expected that all sports would be shut down because of the way the pandemic was moving,” he noted. “Going into this year, I think everybody involved with varsity sports was optimistic that we would be returning. Once it was announced that we weren’t doing it, and it was not [exclusively] a pandemic decision necessarily, that’s what made it so much tougher to take.”
Phillips said it’s also been difficult for his players to see other schools get back on track with their own seasons, while Algonquin students wait on the sidelines.
“They certainly aren’t happy because they see their friends at other schools playing soccer, but they’re not being afforded that opportunity to play here,” he highlighted.
Phillips also noted that most college programs are often only one or two years in length (instead of four like at most universities), which means varsity athletes at Algonquin usually have a much shorter window of time to compete. That has made the two-year suspension of soccer even more challenging to overcome for the program.
“I have recruits that came in that essentially are graduating [soon], that never got a chance to step on the field. The pandemic eliminated a year which set us back, but eliminating this year just eliminates the whole group of recruits,” explained Phillips. “It’s tough to get that continuity of the program going with two years of not having any training whatsoever.”
While admitting he’s unsure what the next steps for the program will be, Phillips is hopeful that the team will be able to restructure with a focus on next year.
“It’s tough recruiting with a program that’s not running, but the best thing that I can do is try to figure out the recruits that are still going to be in school next fall, and then try to build from there in terms of bringing other athletes in,” indicated Philipps, whose team went 8-1 in 2019 and previously won the Ontario championship from 2015 to 2017.
The SA said in its statement that it expects the rugby and soccer seasons to return in the fall of 2022.
A decision on whether the college’s basketball and volleyball teams will play during the winter term has yet to be announced. Those leagues usually begin play in late October.