University athletes try to figure out next steps
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.”