Despite not having a head coach anymore, third-year player Payton Shank takes us through what the women’s rugby team has been coping through this season.

As we enter the first couple weeks of 2021, many individuals continue to live their lives from inside their homes, just as they have been for most of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes countless student-athletes who have been sitting idle in their homes during the 2020-2021 season.

In October 2020, McMaster Sports announced the cancellation of winter sports for the 2021 year, ultimately closing any sort of hope for athletes to compete at a collegiate level. With that being said, many McMaster sports teams have found alternative measures in place of in-person activities, including the women’s rugby team.

Prior to the pandemic, the typical season of the women’s rugby team would begin with training camp in late August, where training would last from morning till night. Payton Shank, a third-year student in the human behaviour program commented on the summer training.

“You’re going non-stop every single day. You’re training in the heat, you’re tackling, hitting people and running around till you almost throw up, every day per week,” said Shank.

“You’re going non-stop every single day. You’re training in the heat, you’re tackling, hitting people and running around till you almost throw up, every day per week,” said Shank.

From training outside during the fall season to indoors in the High Performance Area during the winter season, there would not be enough words to highlight the intensity of these workouts. 

As the first wave of the pandemic heightened in March, the university announced they would be shutting down all in-person classes and activities, including all sports matches and practices. 

“I remember being in the HPA the day before everything closed down. We were trying to get the last workout in. We had to move to Zoom workouts at home. We [went] from using dumbbells and squat racks to putting cans or textbooks in your backpack,” said Shank.

Maintaining a workout routine is important so athletes do not revert into muscular atrophy and hence, do not spend as much conditioning time required once the new season begins. 

When considering the topic of mental health, Shank identified that the loss of practices and in-person workouts has taken a toll.

“For me personally, it was very hard to be motivated. In fact, I was missing a vast majority of the workouts. [I thought:] “I can’t put myself through this, I have nobody to push me through this. I don’t have the HPA. I’m not blaring music like usual. I don’t have my team cheering me on”,” said Shank. 

“For me personally, it was very hard to be motivated. In fact, I was missing a vast majority of the workouts. [I thought:] “I can’t put myself through this, I have nobody to push me through this. I don’t have the HPA. I’m not blaring music like usual. I don’t have my team cheering me on,” said Shank.

The weekly Zoom workout sessions have been a place of comfort for the rugby team, even if they just wanted to pop by and say “hi”. With that being said, the head coach of the rugby team quit this past season.

While many other McMaster sports teams were able to resume in-person training, women’s rugby was not able to do so. Shank emphasized that other universities’ women’s rugby teams have been able to train in-person, which puts McMaster at a disadvantage for the 2021-2022 season. 

As the province is in lockdown with a stay-at-home order in place, there is still uncertainty about the future of the team’s season.

“We thought that we might get back into Sports Hall in [the David Braley Athletic Centre], that was our hope. Now, we’re still going to have to do Zoom calls unfortunately,” said Shank. 

“We thought that we might get back into Sports Hall in [the David Braley Athletic Centre], that was our hope. Now, we’re still going to have to do Zoom calls unfortunately,” said Shank. 

Although the team is still currently without a head coach, Shank stated that there has been vast support for the women’s rugby athletes from Shawn Burt and Claire Arsenault, the director of athletics and recreation and the coordinator of athlete services, respectively.

Looking ahead to next season, there are many unanswered questions as to whether or not students will return to campus in fall 2021.

“I can’t see a season happening next year . . . but I do see us being able to train at least and getting into some facilities,” said Shank.

“I can’t see a season happening next year . . . but I do see us being able to train at least and getting into some facilities,” said Shank. 

Image courtesy of C/O Doris Liou

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