University coaches support athletes through lockdown

By: Josh Manguba

Because of COVID-19, coaches can only connect with their athletes through the screen./ALEXIS BRANDT

Student-athletes in their last year of U SPORTS eligibility may never get a chance to play on the collegiate floor again.

The #RestartMB Pandemic Response System says all recreational activities and sports facilities must close during critical (red) level restrictions, which will continue until at least Jan. 8, 2021.

Trisha Serhal, an assistant coach for the University of Manitoba women’s basketball team, said she’s trying to keep her players interested in school and basketball throughout the unexpected offseason.

“The biggest problem we face is motivation for the girls,” says Serhal. “Keeping them motivated in school and motivated to stay active with limited gym equipment.”

Serhal works alongside head coach Michele Sung. Sung keeps her team in touch by communicating through Zoom calls and conducting online team workouts each week.

“She has been a rock through this whole process during COVID-19,” says Serhal.

On top of the lockdown, U of M students had to deal with a potential faculty strike in November. According to the University of Manitoba Faculty Association, administration was proposing a 2.5 per cent budget cut toward full-time academics and no salary increases for professors, instructors, and librarians.

Some professors refused to show up to online classes during negotiations, which ended on Nov. 20. Serhal said Sung did her best to decrease the players’ stress and anxiety through positive weekly texts.

“She made sure all players felt supported,” says Serhal.

While university campuses remain mostly closed, elementary schools like École St. Avila are taking their physical education classes outdoors.

“As of the pandemic, I can’t coach anything. Everything is pretty much outside,” says Rupal Malik, physical education teacher at École St. Avila.

The Manitoba government mandates that university and college courses stay online while grade school students can attend classes in person if they choose.

“Out of the 340 students we have at school, only 35 are learning online,” says Malik.

École St. Avila hasn’t had any COVID-19 cases, and while some collegiate teams may like to find a way back to the floor this season, all gyms will stay closed until health officials say otherwise.