by Kathryn Mulolani
Otterburne, MB – As the fall term is coming to a close, I was able to do a Zoom interview with three of our student athletes at Providence – Katy (volleyball), Waedon (basketball) and Chloe (soccer) – who shared their experience of a different start to a school year.
It has been a hard year for our varsity players. There was little chance to do the regularly anticipated things such as taking team road trips, playing organized games against other universities, and winning national championships.
Men’s and women’s soccer experienced a short season as it started in August but was cancelled in October due to pandemic restrictions. Then, in early December, the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference (MCAC) officially cancelled the 2020-21 winter sports season for basketball, volleyball and futsal.
“We are very disappointed that this is how our year has turned out. We had a lot of hope going into September that our seasons would be able to move forward,” said Athletic Director, Scott Masterson. “We must now turn our focus and attention on planning for the 2021-2022 seasons.”
Our Pilots did have a short window of time this fall to attend some practices, but even practices were strange with sanitizing hands, balls and play surfaces as well as following the physical distancing rules set by Basketball Manitoba and Volleyball Manitoba in their ‘return to play’ agreements.
“We had to sanitize our hands and grab our own individual ball with absolutely no contact. There was no passing of the ball or doing drills together. So it was really interesting to see how our coach was able to use the practices to help us develop our skills well and still adhere to all the guidelines,” said men’s basketball captain, Waedon Dueck.
Katy Warkentine, who plays women’s volleyball, also commented, “For the first while, we had to play on two separate courts because we were only allowed nine players on a court, and our team is bigger than that. We had to do all the normal things like sanitizing the balls halfway through, and then, sanitizing all the mats and everything else at the end.”
When the Manitoba government issued a code orange and code red, everything shut down. At Providence, on Nov. 12th, we had to close the gymnasium and lock the fitness center. And all our classes moved to remote learning.
Some of our players returned home to complete their term, trying their best to stay motivated and follow coaches’ workout and training schedules. Mostly our teams have kept in contact with each other through group chat and a weekly Zoom meeting with their coaches.
Waedon said his team meets online, once a week. “We do a devotional and a bit of a film session so that we can still stay in touch with the game and be thinking about it. That’s been helpful as we’ve been struggling with not being able to play.”
This, of course, is not unique to Providence. All varsity teams across Canada are facing the same scenarios. Our student athletes try to keep it all in perspective.
“I think our team is a little bit heartbroken because we just got the news that they decided to cancel our Futsal season. We can’t play MCAC, but then again, we’re not surprised,” shared Chloe Jahn of the women’s soccer team.
Katy confided that it has been tough. “It’s my last year. It’s hard knowing that I’m not going to get to compete for the MCAC final or anything like that. It’s a little disappointing but I also knew that it was coming. It’s my last year so I kind of was hoping to go out with a bang.”
Even despite all the restrictions on their sports this year, our student athletes have remained strong and resilient. Katy, Waedon and Chloe emphasized their love for their sport, spoke amiably about their coaches and shared the sense of family (or community) within Prov Athletics.
Waedon: “My coach Pierre is very focused and determined. He takes everything on the court really seriously. But, he also has a fun side to him too. When our team is on the court, we are motivated and competitive, but we also have a great time together off the court. It’s always fun.”
Katy: “My coach Kyle is very caring. He really cares about us as players but also as people. He always checks in to see how we are doing in our lives. One word to describe our team would be ‘family.’ We have such a great time together. Every team I played on at Prov has been such a tight knit group and I think that really makes a difference.”
Chloe: “I’d also describe the Providence Athletics community in general as family. The fact that all three of us know each other really well even though we play different sports…We all have classes together…It just kind of goes to show that we’re all close.”
When asked why they came to Providence in the first place, they indicated that it wasn’t just about being recruited to play their favourite sport. They all enrolled in our four-year Science programs, majoring in Biology or Health Sciences. They all have ambitions to succeed in their studies, and graduate from Providence to further specialize in career areas such as laboratory research, epidemiology and large animal veterinary medicine.
“I was nervous about the idea of going to a big university and being overwhelmed by all the people in my classes,” admitted Katy. “I liked that, at Prov, you’re more than a number to the professors, and to the institution. You know everybody by name. It’s a tight knit community and that’s also what kept me here…all the connections I made with professors, peers, teammates and coaches.”
Chloe, who’s now in her third year of studies, said she had never heard of Providence until Coach Tory recruited her for women’s soccer. “I’m from Langley, BC. I was familiar with Manitoba. I have a bunch of family out here. But I had never heard of Otterburne before. It wasn’t until Coach Tory came to watch me play and showed interest in me that I considered going to Providence. In the end, I chose this university for the Christian aspect of it. The community has also played a big role in why I’m still here.”
All three student athletes mentioned the word h-o-p-e. With the vaccines now becoming available, it’s difficult to know how the winter term will end. Even the chance to get on the court or the field again for practice is something to hope for. Like all of us, the varsity players are looking forward to the time when things get back to normal.
Providence’s leadership, staff and faculty are thinking about the health and wellbeing of the entire student body, including our student athletes, during a tough start to the year. Students have an extended week for Christmas break, and will return to classes on January 18th.
Be sure to watch the Athletics department for the upcoming “Become a Pilot” and “Why I’m a Pilot” campaigns.