Vancouver Whitecaps return after COVID-19 phase one poses training interruption

During phase one of COVID-19, UBC Athletics and Recreation shut down all facilities and suspending all programs “through May 20, 2020 as [a] precautionary measure against COVID-19.”

This included the closure of the National Soccer Development Centre, where the Vancouver Whitecaps and United Soccer League teams train.

These closures also affected the professional swimmers who train at UBC Aquatic Centre, which is one of Swimming Canada’s high performance centres.

Back to full gear mode

June 15 marked the club’s first full team on-field training session since the league’s suspension in play on March 12. In-beom Hwang, a midfielder for Whitecaps, said he's happy to be back training with his teammates.

“During almost two months of quarantine, even though I ran around the park and played ball on my own, it was still hard to maintain my fitness level without training at the centre. But now, it just feels great that I am able to be back training with my teammates again,” said Hwang in an interview with The Ubyssey, conducted in Korean.

“Our fitness coaches gave our programs, but it was hard because we’re soccer players and we play together as a team,” added Ranko Veselinovic, a defender for Whitecaps.

Whitecaps were not able to access the facility for almost two months since the facility closure on March 11. However, the players still kept up their training by following the guidelines provided by the club’s sports medicine & science department.

“The club sent us home equipment that we can use for weight training,” said Hwang.

On May 12, there were voluntary individual training sessions for players and small group training sessions took place before the return of full team on-field training.

Now that the Whitecaps are back training, preparing for the “MLS is Back Tournament” in July, they have implemented rules in efforts to maintain social distancing.

“Now, we are in separate locker rooms … We play normal games, but after [we] get off the field, we keep social distance and take care,” said Veselinovic.

Previously before attending full team training, players had to pass two COVID-19 tests and physical examination. Now, the players and staff are getting tested every other day before attending training.

“We now have to wear masks in all circumstances except when we are training on the field, taking a shower or changing clothes. It is different from how it used to be before quarantine and it can be uncomfortable sometimes, but I know we need to respect and follow these rules if we want to make the situation better so that we can keep training and participate in tournaments," Hwang said.

Potential reopening of UBC Aquatic Centre

UBC Aquatic Centre is home for T-Birds and for many professional swimmers. Since the closure, they have not have access to the facilities.

“I think we all probably took a couple of weeks off after March ... Since then, we’ve just been working out on our own,” said UBC Thunderbirds and member of the Canada national team, Markus Thormeyer.

On March 27, all swim meets were cancelled including the 2020 Canadian Swimming National Championships on March 27 due to COVID-19.

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Although professional swimmers are not back training yet, the facility is hoping to reopen for professional swimmers possibly mid July, according to Thormeyer.

“They are going to try and test out opening pools just to see what protocols work for social distancing and training. So, it’d be like one swimmer per land kind of thing, and we are not allowed to get too close to anyone or the coaches.”

The facility reopening for July may be crucial for these professional swimmers as they have to train for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next summer.

“We’ve not been training consistently for probably the longest time of our career. This summer for sure [we] have to keep it in mind that the Olympics is going to happen next year. So, we need to make sure we’re ready for that,” said Thormeyer.