Ontario Tech University athletes are learning that in order to play for their school, they must be fully vaccinated.
The school’s administration and the athletics department recently made the call.
“Everyone’s itching, itching to get on the field,” said Michele Dell’aquila, Ridgebacks women’s soccer co-captain.
Dell’aquila is going into her fourth season with the Ridgebacks women’s soccer team. The 21-year-old is willing to do whatever it takes to get back on the pitch, including becoming fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“It really gives you peace of mind. I have two parents who are both immune deficient,” said Dell’aquila.
In fact, all athletes who want to suit up for Ontario Tech this season are required to be fully immunized.
“Everyone on our team was pretty much already vaccinated and having that happen has made us all feel really safe,” said Dell’aquila.
Ridgebacks women’s soccer coach Audra Sherman says the health and safety of staff, coaches and players are vital and it also comes down to respecting their opponents.
“Health of everyone first,” Sherman said.
“Everyone bought in right away. At the end of the day, everyone wants to be safe and they want to play and they don’t want to be the ones who shut down everything.”
Ontario Tech has more than 220 athletes on 16 teams. Athletics director Scott Barker says a high risk of COVID-19 transmission suspended the 2020 season and they don’t want to risk another disruption this year.
“We’re trending well over 90 per cent already of athletes that were already fully vaccinated or had intentions of getting their second dose,” said Barker.
The school joins other universities across the province in making this type of requirement. Barker says he expects the vast majority, if not all, to have a mandatory vaccination policy in place in the coming weeks.
“If we have an athlete that is choosing not to be vaccinated then what that would mean is they would be ineligible for competition and they would be ineligible for travel,” said Barker.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital, says policies like this can help create a safer space for all.
“If the goal is to create a safer environment for sporting activity, this is going to help accomplish that goal, it’s as simple as that. We know sports involve close contact with other individuals so physical distancing is not an option,” said Bogoch.
The Ridgebacks women’s soccer team kicks off the season at the end of September, with the rest of the programs getting underway in the coming weeks and months — after more than a year in a holding pattern.