How have sports changed in the first pandemic season?

Jovan Popovic
December 9, 2021
Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

C/O Yoohyun Park

With several new rules and regulations, sports have looked much different for the athletes. 

After more than a year without sports due to the pandemic, university athletes across Canada were beyond excited to hear that they would be returning to play in the 2021-2022 season. Lower-year students would finally get their first chance to represent their university and upper-year students would finally get to return. It was a very exciting time. 

Although athletes were thrilled to get back, they were also left in some confusion, as there would be several new COVID-19 protocols in place, not just affecting playing conditions, but also their season as a whole. 

Many teams would see shortened seasons, alternative formats and reduced playoffs. Other teams saw their divisions realigned to limit travel and would play their regional championships in facilities other than their own. It was a very strange time that left many athletes and teams attempting to figure out how “normal” their return would really be. 

Alexander Cowman, a member of McMaster’s rowing team, was surprised to find his season to be fairly normal and very similar to what he had experienced prior to the shutdown. 

“I don’t think there were any hurdles that came with COVID. It was more so just the regular screening and masks and then that was about it. It’s been fairly close to normal this year,” said Cowman. 

When asked about the big differences he noticed, he quickly pointed to the lack of socialization at regattas from team to team and described it as the most abnormal aspect of the season. 

“I think the biggest difference is the lack of socialization between the different teams. Everyone just stays with their team and doesn’t interact with the other teams as much [as they used to],” said Cowman.

Although sports are full of competition, it is also an opportunity for athletes to socialize, get to know their peers and competitors and learn from one another. This is something that athletes from many sports have noticed as the human element of the game has slowly disappeared. 

When asked about how the year long break from sports affected the team, Cowman suggested that it may have actually been a positive, allowing the team to become more competitive and perform better under a new coaching change. 

“This year’s been pretty good. We had a change of coaches that has made a big difference in the atmosphere around the team . . . I think the year with COVID also helped to build into this with the change that came through COVID and the change through our team,” explained Cowman.

With so many changes having come through the pandemic, Cowman was also asked about what he would like to see return back to normal in the new year, should circumstances allow it. 

“I’d like to see our practices go back to normal. Last winter we were only able to train at home and alone, so I’d like to get back to practicing inside all together. I’m really excited to get back into there with the team weight sessions. I’m also looking forward to hosting some of our indoor regattas,” said Cowman. 

With many indoor sports beginning to take place leading into the break, such as basketball, water polo, volleyball and more, it should be interesting to see how much leniency both U Sports and McMaster allow for and how “back to normal” the lives of athletes can truly get. 

From the explanation of Cowman, sports have seemingly largely returned to normal. However, this largely applies to outdoor sports as these are the ones largely being allowed to proceed. Here’s hoping the same will be said as indoor sports begin to take charge. 


  • Jovan Popovic

    Jovan is a fourth year commerce student from Hamilton who has long had a love for sports and journalism. After years of competitive baseball and basketball, an injury shifted Jovan's love of sports to writing. Jovan held the position of Sports Staff Writer for two years before becoming the editor at The Sil. After university, Jovan hopes to continue his studies at law school, while continuing to fulfill his writing passion as a member of a major sports media outlet.

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