Univer­sity ath­letes try to fig­ure out next steps

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - TODD SAELHOF tsael­hof@post­media.com Twit­ter: Tod­dsael­hofpm

Tay­lor Wells was pumped for her se­nior year of var­sity soc­cer.

One fi­nal fall of ca­ma­raderie with a le­git­i­mate shot at a re­turn trip to the na­tional cham­pi­onship.

Lo­gan Bandy felt much the same way about his fourth year of foot­ball with the de­fend­ing Vanier Cup-cham­pion Cal­gary Di­nos. Plenty to get ex­cited about with the prom­ise of the CFL draft to cap it.

But af­ter Mon­day’s news that saw Canada West can­cel its fall sports sea­sons due to the coron­avirus pan­demic, the mood — just as the year ahead — has changed dra­mat­i­cally.

“It’s dev­as­tat­ing,” said Wells, her voice crack­ing when try­ing to find the words to ex­press her dis­ap­point­ment. “It’s been ex­tremely emo­tional be­cause I don’t think peo­ple fully un­der­stand how can­celling the sea­son will af­fect the ath­letes, es­pe­cially those head­ing into their fifth year ... like my­self.”

In­deed, the mid­fielder was head­ing into her fi­nal year of el­i­gi­bil­ity with the Di­nos soc­cer team.

But with the sea­son be­ing scrubbed, sud­denly her en­tire world — and fu­ture — has been thrown into doubt.

It’s the same for six team­mates — the se­niors of the Di­nos women’s soc­cer squad — and a big slice of some 300 fel­low Univer­sity of Cal­gary stu­dent-ath­letes af­fected by the Canada West de­ci­sion.

“We ended the sea­son last year in a lot of dis­ap­point­ment with a sil­ver medal at na­tion­als — I’m still get­ting over that,” said Wells, a grad­u­ate of Cal­gary’s Dr. E.P. Scar­lett High School. “I was just so ready and op­ti­mistic to end my var­sity ex­pe­ri­ence with a na­tional ti­tle. Now, there’s just a lot of loose ends to my ca­reer.”

Such as whether she’ll take ad­van­tage of a U Sports de­ci­sion not to charge those fall sports stu­dent-ath­letes — in foot­ball, soc­cer, rugby and field hockey — and re­turn for her fi­nal year in 2021.

“I don’t know,” said the Werk­lund School of Ed­u­ca­tion/arts stu­dent who grad­u­ates from the U of C this month. “As of right now, life’s get­ting in the way. I’m hon­estly on the path to start­ing a life­long ca­reer now.”

Yes, there’s post-se­condary af­ter­life to con­sider.

And for those with­out schol­ar­ship aid next fall, a re­turn to var­sity soc­cer would mean an­other year of univer­sity fi­nances.

“You al­ready have such a small pe­riod of your life to play var­sity sport,” said Wells, 21. “Be­ing a Dino has been one of the great­est ex­pe­ri­ences of my life, and to close this chap­ter so abruptly and with such un­cer­tainty is some­thing we could’ve never re­ally imag­ined.

“I wish Canada West would’ve waited longer and al­lowed us to com­mit to safety and al­lowed us to con­trib­ute to the de­ci­sion-mak­ing and to share our ex­pe­ri­ences to how much this means to us.”

Mean­while, for Bandy and other foot­ballers head­ing into their draft year, there is dev­as­ta­tion as well, but there are timely de­ci­sions to be made in the wake of the can­cel­la­tions.

Do they make the jump to ju­nior foot­ball to give them­selves ex­po­sure in the ab­sence of what was to be an ul­tra-im­por­tant Canada West cam­paign? Or do they take ad­van­tage of the de­layed year of el­i­gi­bil­ity to give them­selves more game-film for CFL teams?

A lot might de­pend on whether the CFL changes its rules of el­i­gi­bil­ity for U Sports prospects.

“We’re not re­ally sure how this is go­ing to af­fect the CFL draft, if at all,” said Bandy, the start­ing left tackle head­ing into his fourth year with the Di­nos. “I can play an­other two years with the Di­nos, so I don’t know if my draft year stays the same or gets pushed back. Some se­nior guys, if the re­quire­ment by the CFL doesn’t get changed, might be look­ing to play ju­nior foot­ball to re­place what would be their last sea­son.

“If the CFL were to say that we have to en­ter this draft, a lot of those NCAA guys are go­ing to have film from this sea­son and we won’t,” con­tin­ued Bandy, a 21-year-old grad of Cal­gary’s St. Fran­cis High School and U of C ki­ne­si­ol­ogy stu­dent. “I feel like U Sports Cana­dian play­ers are go­ing to have to go that ex­tra mile ... be­cause we don’t have that op­por­tu­nity to have some fresh film from this sea­son.”

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