PEI

Student athletes feeling uncertain about leaving P.E.I. to head back to U.S.

University students across the country are gearing up for an uncertain school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic come the fall, but for two student athletes who attend American universities, those questions are amplified.

Whatever the return looks like, 'it won't be a typical season,' says Ava Boutilier

Ava Boutilier says there are still some uncertainties about what the school and sports year will look like at the University of New Hampshire. (UNH Women's Hockey/Twitter)

University students across the country are gearing up for an uncertain school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic come the fall, but for two student athletes who attend American universities, those questions are amplified.

Ava Boutilier is a hockey goalie at the University of New Hampshire, who came back to P.E.I. for spring break with her family not realizing it was going to be a much longer trip.

"I came home with a duffel bag for spring break — lots of hoodies and pants — and never went back," she said.

"I just packed my one week's worth of March clothes and been living out of my sister's and my mom's closet ever since."

Emma Jinks, far right, says there isn't a lot of space on a squash court, and the players cross paths pretty closely, so social distancing would be difficult. (Submitted by Emma Jinks)

Emma Jinks, a squash player at the University of Virginia, at least had the chance to pack some things for summer just after spring break before heading back to Canada.

"I was actually in Maine and that's when everything actually went down, where we got the notice that classes would be online," she said.

It's a very national school, so I know many people in my major from the hot spots.— Ava Boutilier

"So I got what I needed for the summer and then I got dropped off at the border, where my brother picked me up and we came home and did our 14-day quarantine together."

While Boutilier and Jinks attend universities in different states, they have similar concerns about what school — and sports — will look like when they do eventually return.

Both students said the academic calendar has been moved partially online, while their sports seasons have been shifted. For Jinks, she expects sports to be pushed to the spring semester, but nothing is set in stone.

Boutilier said there are still questions about the hockey season for her team, but it's looking like either a November or January start is possible — "but it won't be a typical season," she said.

'It's definitely some fear'

Jinks and Boutilier share anxiety about what the school year will bring.

"Everywhere in the States is kind of rough at the moment — there's no safe spot, particularly, but I have been kind of reassured with all the emails and updates that UVA has been sending out about their plans for the coming year," said Jinks.

"They're sending out tests to all the students before they come back to grounds and they have to get a negative result to be able to come back on ground, so it's kind of nice just knowing that they're really putting a big emphasis on making sure everyone stays safe."

Boutilier said her campus is fortunate, since it's where a lot of the state's testing is happening.

Emma Jinks, seen here in a photo taken before COVID-19, says social distancing will be a challenge on a small squash court. (University of Virginia)

"They're able to do plenty of testing for both the athletes and the whole student body, so in that regard I think it'll be handled very well."

However, heading back to a huge campus with students from all over the U.S. is a bit concerning for Boutilier.

"Being from P.E.I. has a factor in it too, where we've been living in a relatively safe bubble for the last couple of months. New Hampshire isn't terrible, but it's a very national school, so I know many people in my major from the hot spots," she said, adding that she'll wait a while longer before deciding when she'll return to campus.

"I know probably 15 people from Florida and another 15 from Texas, so that's kind of more the concern, people coming in.… But yeah it's definitely some fear."

Jinks said her university will be categorizing all of the student athlete programs into high-, medium- and low-risk activities, to determine how often students get tested.

"Especially being an athlete at UVA, being on a sports team when you might not have as much opportunity to continue with those social distancing guidelines as much as the normal student might, because in squash you're in a court — a small court — with one other person and it's kind of hard to stay six feet apart," said Jinks.

Boutilier said she expects a fairly lengthy isolation and resocialization period before her team sports can resume.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

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