Gaiters football team finds stability and peace of mind back on the field

By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After waiting with bated breath for months to hear the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec’s (RSEQ) final decision regarding the fall season, the Bishop’s University Gaiters football team wasted little time getting back on the field.
The RSEQ was the Gaiters’ last hope for any type of competition this season, even if it was only going to be in the form of exhibition games. Quebec’s sports governing body ultimately decided to cancel all fall sports.
“Once it was confirmed that there was going to be no games, our focus turned to player development, so we started with about two weeks of no strategies, no schemes, just skill development,” said head coach Cherif Nicolas.
While the decision is disappointing, Nicolas said the majority of his team is still on campus and ready to play football. They practiced twice last week, at a distance, for the first time in nearly six months. The players still want to be on the field, he explained, even without a season.
“We’re talking about high-level athletes, right? So their level of commitment, you know, when you play university football you don’t need to be very motivated to try to get better, it’s part of your DNA,” said Nicolas.
The disappointment hit a bit earlier for Bishop’s. The football team doesn’t actually play in the RSEQ. They joined the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) division several years ago. The AUS cancelled the fall season back in April.
However, that didn’t stop players from coming back to campus. Nicolas has 83 players registered this season out of a regular 93-person roster. He said that 10 players opted to study online this semester. But the rest of the team is fully committed to the adjusted program.
Practices look a lot different, Nicolas continued, they constantly disinfect bags, balls and other equipment. They always try to maintain a physical distance, which is most noticeable during team stretch with players spread out across both sidelines.
“We’re also limiting the amount of time that players are in close proximity with each other, we’re talking about contact drills or drills where they’re face-to-face, so we’ve reduced that, we try to manage the reps in terms of those situations,” he said.
Nicolas believes that without a regular season, this is the best possible scenario at this point. The only other option is to sit at home, not practicing, which is something the head coach is not willing to do again.
Nicolas told The Record that the lockdown was one of the hardest experiences of his life. Not being on the field, not seeing his players or helping them develop their skills, weighed on him. And with so much uncertainty regarding sports, he wants to take advantage of every minute.
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