All Athletics and Recreation programming at McGill came to a halt on Jan. 6, when the university suspended athletic activities—including both recreational and varsity sports—due to the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. In a Jan. 11 update, the university announced that a limited amount of individual athletics programming, such as running, would return on Jan. 17. Intramurals and sports clubs are to remain suspended.
In an email to The McGill Tribune, Zachary McRae, Athletics and Recreation’s communications officer, explained that the closure of the fitness centres and cancellation of sporting activities was in adherence to Quebec’s public health mandate. On Jan. 13, the government stipulated that the 10 p.m. curfew would be lifted on Jan. 17, but that gyms and indoor recreation facilities would remain closed.
“Athletics and Recreation [now] has permission to resume offering jogging, singles tennis, singles badminton, recreational skating and lap swimming,” McRae said. “Advanced bookings will be required to participate.”
Assistant Manager of Intramurals Ryne Bondy informed the Tribune in an email that there is no date planned for team intramurals to resume, as government restrictions continue to prohibit team sports. When the government eases these restrictions, Athletics and Recreation is considering implementing a shortened season, similar in format to Fall 2021, that would consist of only four games, rather than the typical six. Bondy explained that a plan is in place in the event that team intramurals are allowed to continue.
“We have everything ready to go and just need the green light to safely resume from public health,” Bondy wrote. “We had numerous protocols in place in the fall, increased buffer between matches, roster limits, no fans, increased sanitation. These can easily be transferred to the winter season and won’t be new for our participants.”
The suspension of activities has also affected the operations of McGill’s many sports clubs. Mei Yang, an executive of McGill’s Naginata Club, explained in an email that the suspension of in-person activities has complicated the training process for members as partner drills like sparring are not possible.
“In the past, we have run online practices and other social activities, but the scope of techniques that we can teach beginners online is drastically reduced,” Yang wrote. “Anything beyond the very basics is near impossible to properly teach without adequate space and in-person advising, so beginners tend to suffer the most during online practices.”
Akiko Nakagawa, another Naginata Club executive, agreed that the suspension has been difficult for athletics clubs because online training is not as effective in maintaining one’s physical fitness.
“Naginata is a very technical practice, so we can all definitely feel our skills getting rusty after not practicing for a few months,” Nakagawa wrote. “It’s also pretty decent aerobic exercise, so I’m definitely more out of shape now than I was when we were practicing in person.”
Yang explained that club activities serve as an important opportunity for social interaction. In lieu of in-person activities, the club plans to organize game nights, movie screenings, and online viewings of tournament videos.
“Normally we socialize during or after our in-person practices, but since that’s no longer possible under the suspension we plan to move our socialization online through platforms like Discord,” Yang wrote. “The Naginata Club is the one of the few places where I can consistently talk to people who I consider to be friends, and taking this opportunity away deprives all club members of much-needed human contact.”