‘It’s going to be a lot harder’: Moving from high school to university sports during a pandemic

As an outside hitter, Jordy McEachern feeds off the thrill of the back-and-forth action in a volleyball game.

But for more than a year now, there have been no games.

“It’s been a lot — very challenging — just because we have to stay motivated to keep playing and training hard,” said the talented 18-year-old, who has tried her best to do just that.

The graduating Campbell Collegiate student signed early on in the pandemic to play for the University of Regina this fall.

High school to university sports is “already a big transition in a regular year,” McEachern said. “With COVID, I just feel like it’s going to be a lot harder.”

But she’s up for the challenge.

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McEachern has been working on her fitness at every opportunity. She’s attended practices when there were practices to attend, she’s hit the gym when it’s been open and safe, and gone running more than she normally would.

Read more: Saskatchewan COVID-19 sports restrictions weigh on young athletes: ‘It’s mentally challenging’

Since March 2020, high school sport competition has been on hold in Regina.

For a brief period last fall, intrasquad intramurals were permitted because there were fewer cases and fewer restrictions in the city, said Regina High School Athletics Association commissioner Aaron Anderson, who is hopeful more fulsome seasons will resume in the fall.

Read more: Return of high school athletics in Regina delayed

Like other coaches, University of Regina volleyball head coach Melanie Sanford, who hasn’t seen high school and club athletes compete in nearly two years, has been making recruiting decisions increasingly based on videos and zoom calls due to the pandemic.

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“I think it’s really changed the whole recruiting process,” said Sanford, who signed McEachern almost a year ago now. “It’s been quite challenging.”

Sanford is already working with McEachern and the other new recruits, integrating them into broader training regimens that will continue throughout the spring and summer ahead of the 2021-22 school year.

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The Cougar volleyball club was able to practice throughout the winter, although not compete.

“It’s going to take a while to recover, kind of repair and restore, where we were at and where we want to be,” Sanford said.

“We’re going to need a lot of patience.”

Sanford said although sport has been severely interrupted, young and upcoming athletes should continue to do what they can in their pandemic circumstances.

“If the only thing you can do physically is come to Wascana Park and run around it, do it,” she said. “If you can’t get into a weight room, try to find a program that you can do at home.

“I really think there’s always something you can do.”

She also wants to encourage high school students who want to play in university or college to reach out to program coaches.

“I think any coach right now would do their best to help navigate the recruiting process,” Sanford said.

“Don’t sit back and wait, especially when coaches haven’t seen you in a gym and been able to identify you.”

Saskatchewan government updates COVID-19 guidelines for sports practices – Mar 2, 2021

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