By Rodrigo Verney, October 7 2020—
Although they were looking forward to taking to the courts after last year’s fantastic season — finishing with eighteen victories in conference play and ranking as a top four team in the nation all season long — the future of the University of Calgary Dinos mens’ basketball team is still to be decided as Canada West evaluates the best course of action for the safety of its participants.
Following the implementations of the instructions stipulated by Alberta’s Guidelines for Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation, the Dinos basketball team has restarted their training. The Gauntlet got together with head coach Daniel Vanhooren to better understand how they are processing this moment and their thoughts about being back to training.
The Gauntlet: After a brilliant playoff run, the season gets cancelled. What was going through your head in regards to what was happening and how did that information affect the team?
Daniel Vanhooren: Whenever there’s a level of uncertainty people tend to worry and be concerned about what the future looks like. When you don’t know, and when your life is planned for you in some fashion, as a student with a schedule, developing a plan and figuring out what we are going to do and what we will do moving forward and what’s that gonna look like is necessary. The league and Canada West have to come together to develop different courses of action through different sports. Our league decision was to have a season that starts in January and is reduced from a travel perspective to try to keep the spread of COVID down and allow the kids the opportunity to compete. That decision is not finalized and won’t be until October 8.
G: What are your thoughts on the new polices implemented for your return to training?
DV: I think we have to do what we have to do. Between social distancing and mask and cleansers there is a need to follow those rules and make sure that we are doing the right things. There are different opinions around everything. I think for right now there is still an uncertainty what the actual disease causes at times or what things take place and how that can affect different age groups. So we are taking precautions and taking the choices we think are best for the athletes and their health and well being.
G: Following initial training, how has the team adapted to the new procedures? Have you noticed any areas to be improved given the amount of time that have been without working out together?
DV: I think what we are doing right now is approaching our current time like the offseason. Every athlete knows and understands the things that they have to work on. As coaches, we identify some of them as well and when we all put our heads together we can figure out a great course of action. We continue to develop each athlete not only individually but collectively as a group. I think we did a great job of that. Our couching group has definitely done a great job whether its adapting or learning workouts through zoom. The coaches did a great job of getting the team together [from a Zoom perspective] for several months and then in different co-hoards after we were allowed back in small groups settings. In those circumstances, we could have four or five guys at a time that go in together, so their fitness and their bodies are well adapted. Then from a skills perspective we got back to the gym where we had the opportunity to do some extra skills work and improve some of the deficiency in each individual player’s games and expand their abilities. It should be an interesting time when we get to play again.
G: Fortunately, there is a rainbow after the storm — Brett Layton has been nominated as Canada West’s athlete of the year. What does it mean to have such a dominant player on your roster?
DV: Well, he was Canada athlete of the year. He was also sports player of the year. When we have a player of that caliber, it does lift the team up in another level and puts us in a place where we have a more consistent level of success regardless of our opponents. It’s a big step forward for us. It certainly says a lot about what the coaches and our strength conditioning coach are doing and accomplishing with each athlete.
G: What are your thoughts and hopes for the future of the season?
DV: Well, I hope that Canada West and the league would make the decision to have a reduced schedule in Alberta and then play a shorter season in January. Depending on what’s happening nationally, some kind of national invitation tournament to finish off the year would be a great thing and a way for people, say like Brett [Layton], or special players, to have a good final season with us before they graduate from university. I hope that we can do that in a healthy manner and in a way that is healthy for everyone. Maybe a good change in a way for creating future leagues depending on how long this lasts.
The Dinos mens’ basketball team team continues to stay focused on training and will follow any changes or new regulations needed to get back in the court. They continue with the Zoom workout sessions and have recently added new pieces to the roster: Aidan Smith and Javier Ramos-Yzquierdo. Sports may be in turmoil at both the college and professional level but that won’t stop sports fans. Because everyone that plays and/or cheers knows that we don’t need the limelight, or the jerseys, or the courts. Because we don’t decide to play the game. It calls us.