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Langara Falcons trade games for Zoom sessions

Without competition, they've had to think of creative new ways to stay connected and active

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By Hannah Snider

Since tougher COVID-19 restrictions were introduced in B.C. late last year, the Langara men’s basketball team has been navigating how to maintain competitive mental and physical fitness — only now through Zoom sessions and creative drills. 

The athletes, used to a tough regular training regimen to build skill, team spirit and hone their competitive edge, found themselves working out in limited numbers, without any games to play.

Head coach Paul Eberhardt and his trainers, who had to pivot quickly last spring, have implemented different techniques and individual drills sessions to inspire players.

By mid-November, even tighter restrictions caused the players to scale back further, allowing only modified training and no competitive games. In addition, teammates are now only able to see each other two or three times a week. 

Online sessions help players keep in touch

Eberhardt also holds Zoom sessions every other week to help the team stay connected. Some players say the Zoom sessions help as a substitute for bonding, and to make sure the team is on top of their studies. 

“It’s difficult because the main reason why people love to be involved in competitive team sports is a chance to train and test yourself by having the opportunity to compete,” he said. “There are times I’m sure the guys have lost their motivation at practice.

“It’s up to us coaching staff to be creative and original and keep them focused.”

Men’s basketball head coach, Paul Eberhardt, runs an online Zoom session. Photo: Paul Eberhardt

 

Centre Jas Dhudwal said it is tough without competition. Having grown up playing basketball, this is the longest he has gone without playing.

“You prepare in the summer for a whole season. You ask yourself ‘What am I practising for?’” he said. “Ebe has been doing a good job of keeping us on our toes, and trying to stay as engaged as possible.”

Forward Saleem Ali-Musa, a first-year international student from Napa Valley, Calif., said moving to stricter restrictions in November was disappointing. He is eager for next season, when they are able to compete against other teams again. 

Ali-Musa said he now has a “deeper appreciation for the sport when you have an opportunity to have it back again.”

Rise in athletes seeking support since competitions ended due to COVID-19

Sarah Kiengersky, a Game Plan advisor at Canadian Sports Institute Pacific in Richmond, B.C., said that consequences occur when athletes are deprived of competition. 

Since March 2020, Kiengersky said that through Game Plan, she has seen a rise in athletes seeking out mental health support. 

Delivered through sports experts throughout Canada, Game Plan aims to help athletes identify how the skills they have developed in team sports can be transferred into other environments.

“We have spent a lot of time at home and away from the support network (that) we may have built directly with our teammates,” said Kiengersky.

She said this isolation creates a “ripple effect” in an athlete’s life, impacting everything from graduation to retirement. 

Michael Schratter, founder of Ride Don’t Hide — an organization which intends to break mental health stigma — said that athletes who suddenly quit their sport often struggle.

“Our brain during exercise is bathed in endorphins,” he said. “There is a trend of professional athletes having difficulty coming off their sport simply because the amount of endorphins traveling through their brain has to be re-adjusted.”

In the video below, Sarah Kiengersky explains the consequences for athletes when they can’t compete

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