Working hard on the field, hanging out with teammates, and attending in-person classes.
Those are some of the things Charlie Waters would typically be doing in a normal year as a student-athlete at Cape Breton University in Sydney.
Instead, the 22-year-old forward isn’t even in Cape Breton and for that matter doesn’t know when he’ll be able to return to campus life.
“I think it’s tough on everyone not being able to be on campus,” said Waters, in a phone interview from Antigonish, where he’s currently living with his girlfriend.
“It’s a challenge for everyone, but I think we’ve all come to the agreement that this is probably the best thing to do.”
Along with university moving to online classes for at least the fall semester, the Atlantic University Sport announced in June the cancellation of its fall sports season, which includes the soccer campaign, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s disappointing we won’t be able to be on the pitch this year, but we understand,” said Waters, who was expected to play in his third AUS soccer season this year.
“With no games and not being able to practice with the boys, it’s tough, you really miss being around them and playing the sport you like.”
Cape Breton Capers men’s soccer team 2019 season:
• Record: 10-0-2 – 32 Points
• Standings: First overall in Atlantic University Sport
• Goals For: 35
• Goals Against: 9
• Achievements: Atlantic University Sport regular season and playoff champions. Bronze medal victory at U Sports nationals
Cape Breton Capers women’s soccer team 2019 season:
• Record: 9-2-1 – 28 Points
• Standings: Second overall in Atlantic University Sport
• Goals For: 37
• Goals Against: 9
• Achievements: Atlantic University Sport playoff champions and appeared in the U Sports nationals
Although the academic performance in the classroom is just as important as the success on the field, Waters admits no season does provide more time to focus on schooling.
“You can’t just throw away your schooling and I think a lot of the guys understand that and are focused, especially the ones who are hoping to graduate this year,” said Waters.
“It’s going to be challenging for some people moving to online education, but I think we have a good group and everyone at the school is very helpful, so if we need that support system, we know it’s there for us.”
On the field, the Capers men’s program had a successful 2019 season.
The team finished the campaign with an undefeated 10-0-2 record and first overall in the AUS standings while capturing the league championship in a tournament hosted in Sydney.
Meanwhile, the club also had a strong showing on the national stage, being listed on the U Sports top 10 rankings, and capturing a bronze medal at the nationals in Montreal.
However, all the success didn’t come on the field. The team had 15 players receive academic all-Canadian honours for their dedication to being top performers in the classroom.
Although Capers head coach Deano Morley would rather be on the field preparing for the season, the veteran coach understands there are more important things happening in the world than sports right now.
“I think first and foremost it’s about supporting the student-athletes to continue their education and that’s the priority, making sure they’re still working towards their academic goals,” said Morley.
“You can’t hide the disappointment of no season, but there’s bigger things going on, whether that’s with equality or the pandemic — we know that we’re fortunate enough to be able to move on and have them continue their education.”
Some programs have given players a training regimen to follow while not being on the field, but Morley said he hasn’t given his players any instructions in terms of training.
“Right now, my instructions to them is about staying happy, staying mentally healthy, looking after themselves and their families, and focusing on school,” he said. “I’m not dictating workouts or programs right now, I’m managing people and I want my people to be happy and well.”
When it comes to the 2021 season, Morley is already preparing for next September. The three-time AUS coach of the year is potentially replacing 13-to-14 players on his roster.
“I’ve never worked harder,” said Morley. “Recruiting four or five players a year to a squad is an exceedingly difficult task and it takes months of work, so consider that amount of possible recruitments in one year.”
Because of the pandemic, coaches are not allowed to travel for recruitment. Morley spent the majority of Sept. 3 watching player showcases.
“I think some people will make excuses and find this type of recruiting tough, but I think it’s a blessing,” said Morley. “I’ve never had so much time to focus on recruitment, and knowing we’re hosting nationals in 2023, I’m full of fight and I plan on putting together a very competitive squad next year and the years to come.”
Morley said this year’s recruitment class may be the largest the men’s program has seen in recent years, noting 2015 and 2016 were likely the team’s largest recruitment seasons.
“We were really transitioning into a new culture and a new program,” said Morley of 2015 and 2016. “Now, that recruitment class would have come to an end this fall … I think we’ll be doing some rebuilding on the cultural pieces, but for my coaching staff and I, it’s an opportunity to hit the reset button.”
As for Waters, who was in Winnipeg with the Canadian Premier League’s Valour FC at the time the pandemic began, he’s been staying busy in the gym.
“I have to make sure that I’m on top of things and not slacking off,” said Waters, noting the serious torn ACL he suffered, which forced him to miss the entire 2018 season.
“I’m at the gym a lot and I’m getting to the turf now that it opened up the last couple of months here, so I’m just hoping that the snow stays away for a while, so I can keep getting on the field.”
The Cape Breton Post contacted women’s head coach Stephen (Ness) Timmons for comment on how his program is dealing with the season cancellation, however, he was not immediately available.
The Capers women’s program will host the U Sports national soccer championship in November 2021 at the Cape Breton Health Recreation Complex in Sydney.
The 2021 AUS season is expected to begin next September.