Lethbridge College has made the decision not to take part in winter athletics in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC).
“We just decided that we really needed to make a call about this season, to keep the safety of the students and the staff at heart, and to really preserve our campuses for teaching and learning,” said Lethbridge College president and CEO Paula Burns.
“That’s really what was at the heart of the decision, but it was tough.”
The decision impacts the Lethbridge College Kodiaks in volleyball, basketball and futsal.
Burns says the time had come for a decision, based on what was happening on the academic side of things.
“What the presidents felt is that it was really important to do it based on the decisions we were making for each semester,” she said.
“Looking at this being the beginning of November, and thinking that for January, we already knew that we would predominantly be online.
“It was time to make the call.”
Burns says Lethbridge College continues to be committed to honouring scholarships and bursaries for student athletes, despite a lack of competition.
The Kodiaks men’s and women’s soccer teams were some of the first to have their ACAC season cancelled earlier this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the players also compete in futsal during the winter.
Head coach Sean Carey was reunited with some of his athletes earlier this week, before news broke that there wouldn’t be a futsal season on Tuesday night.
“We only just got back on the field Monday,” Carey said.
Carey is in a unique situation as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s sides, and says he’s been impressed by his players’ positivity, despite missing out on the chance to build on the program’s best year ever in 2019.
“With my two teams this fall, we would have been hosting championships, we would have had two really strong teams coming into the fall,” he said.
“They’re juggling it. You know one day they’re kind of depressed because they can’t get on the field, and the next they understand that their health and safety is what’s most important.”
With the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) announcing that student athletes will not lose athletic eligibility this season, Carey says he and his coaching staff have already convinced some players to return for one last season next year.
The pandemic also hasn’t slowed down Carey’s recruiting.
“I love the recruiting part of it,” he said. “In terms of the soccer, the leagues are actually going in Calgary and Edmonton, and I went to a showcase a couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of restrictions in place for it, but you were at least allowed to watch some players and contact them through social media or text, phone calls, that kind of thing.”
“So it’s been different, but we feel like we’ve really picked up some strong players for next year,” he said.
ACAC schools are open to explore cohort-friendly exhibition play, but Lethbridge College said in a statement that the decision to participate in future ACAC competition will be evaluated on a semester-by-semester basis.