UTURNS: Sports Perspective of a Player, Coach and Father

By RANDY UENS

This is the first of hopefully many editorials I will write for this magazine and website. Obviously all dependent on how it is received by the readership … It could be my last. First thing to get out of the way… yes that picture is me; Circa 1975 Belleville Novice Rep Lacrosse.  I blame my parents for the choice of cut off track pants as shorts. Secondly, you may ask; why is the column called U Turns?  It comes from two places.

Initially it was a short-lived nickname given to me in high school by a guy named Rob Guarasci. I hated it. At the time I was a lot smaller in stature than I am today and took this nickname as an insult. A “bigger guy trying to demean me”, was my reaction to this nickname.  My response to Rob was a lame nickname of “G String”. Luckily for both of us, neither nickname stuck in the public domain. In retrospect now I realize that Rob probably wasn’t being mean, he was trying to be funny. I in turn was insecure and took it as an attack. A valuable life lesson I guess as I look back at it. I needed to be able to take a joke and laugh at myself sometimes. The second reason for the column name is that the word “U turn“ represents a lot of things about sports and life. Often you go down a wrong path and you correct your path by doing a U Turn. Other times you may see danger ahead, and perform a U turn to avoid that danger. I believe that this analogy holds true with sports. I hope to talk about topics of interest and provide insights via my own experiences, the good the bad and whatever else I can come up with.

Currently our lives are consumed with the talk of COVID 19 and the fallout of decisions made by the government and health agencies.  I don’t have to tell you all this has not been the best of times, but it also has not been the worst of times. There have been some great things that have come out of these crazy circumstances. For my family it has been the family time, especially family dinners. During the complete lockdown we were able to sit down and actually connect again as a family for extended periods of time. No one was racing off to a rink or to a workout. Spouse going one way with one kid and me the other with the other. My son Zach was home from college in the U.S. and we valued all of that time together.  Many people, and I mean many people, either picked up golf again or started golfing, as it was one of the first things that we were able to do to get out of the house. Golf has had its biggest season in twenty years. Bicycles, hiking gear and boats all have been in high demand as people seek solstice and comfort in sports and leisure during these stressful times.

In the beginning it was the fear of the unknown. This superbug that was decimating our elderly and those with compromised immunities with the odd anecdotal incidence of otherwise healthy people falling victim to this virus that we knew nothing about. Shutting down sports, restaurants etc., was the right thing to do at the time. We needed to circle the wagons and understand what we are dealing with.  And for the most part, in Canada, we have done pretty well managing. There have been mistakes and we have learned from them, hopefully. As we enter another cycle of increased cases we now know what we are dealing with. It’s a virus. It’s very contagious. We need to wash our hands, wear a mask and socially distance until we get a vaccine and or treatments to deal with it. The reality is that it is not going away anytime soon. We need to protect our vulnerable people in the population. I can’t agree more. We have to be considerate and wear a mask to protect other people. We need to improve testing so that it is more accessible and immediate, even to the point where we can test ourselves at home.  Saying all of that, I do not understand why we have to shut down all sports, especially kids sports.  I fear that another winter of shutdowns and closures will have a detrimental effect on the long-term psyche of our children not to mention the mental health of many adults. Sports are an outlet for these times of stress. Kids need it maybe more than any of us. If we can send kids to school, we can send them to hockey.

I have read multiple stories that cited epidemiological experts stating that the transmission of the virus in hockey rinks or very humid areas like a swimming pool is very low. Basketball and other gym related sports is a tougher one for sure. For hockey, the greatest risk is on the bench or in the dressing room. There is absolutely no reason that the players cannot wear fabric facemasks on the ice under their helmets and masks, or that basketball players can’t wear facemasks while they play. It is a little hot, and a little uncomfortable, but in no way is it a roadblock to getting back on the ice or the court. The secret is to buy in and be disciplined with enforcement. The players have to adhere to the rules. Recent outbreaks in sports teams on the surface seem to unravel this theory, however if you ask questions you find out that protocols were not being followed and guards were let down that allowed these outbreaks to occur.  Kids hockey, should be running.

Let them play games. Let them carry on. Absolutely restrict the games to regional adversaries and restrict the number of fans or ban spectators altogether, just get the games going. Parents can watch the games via live streaming or on video.  (May be a coach’s dream year) At some point the risk mitigation focus needs to be turned towards protecting the kids and letting them play rather than organizations and governments providing their own risk mitigation to protect their own interests.

My hope is that we as a society can find creative and responsible ways to mitigate the risk of exposure and yet allow us to continue to live and enjoy those things that make life full. We need to get on with it.

These are my own views and do not reflect the views of  Total Sports Magazine, Dukes  Sports & Entertainment or the Wellington  Dukes Hockey club.

TIP OF THE WEEK!

During these periods of slowdown, encourage your young athlete to work on a  skill that maybe has nothing to do with their  sport on the surface. Learn to juggle, ride a  unicycle, learn to punch a speed bag, learn to skip like a boxer…. All of these indirect skills make you a better athlete and take you out  of your comfort zone.

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