LAC LA BICHE - With many classes held virtually, the Director of athletics and recreation at Portage College says they are preparing mentally for the upcoming collegiate sports season
Nate Bedford is the Director of athletics and recreation at Portage College. He says that the college's support programs are going in the right direction and that the mentality right now at Portage college is to prepare for the upcoming season in curling, golf, hockey and soccer.
“Our number one goal as an athletic department is to prepare for next year,” Bedford told the Post. “We expect to have 65 to 70 student-athletes on our teams.”
Bedford says that despite the challenges and changes brought on by the global pandemic — and a continued push to carry virtual programming into next year's school schedule — the focus continues to be drawing student athletes to the diverse program and sports offerings at Portage.
Recruiting has already begun for many of the sports options — and it has been successful in finding applicants ready to wear the Voyageur jersey in the 2021-22 season.
“We’re well on our way to having full teams recruited and ready to go,” Bedford said. “And of course you always have tryouts at the beginning.”
Bedford says that local talent in the Lakeland region are always welcome to participate and try out for the teams which he believes puts them in real good shape for preparing for the upcoming seasons.
The idea is to gear forward, attract the brightest athletes and students, and plan for a strong sports showing.
“That’s kind of our mentality,” Bedford said. “Obviously for that to occur we have to follow Alberta Health Services (AHS) guidelines and we have to follow rules from national sport organizations and provincial sporting organizations.”
Already, the Voyageurs soccer teams — still relatively new franchises in the Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference of 26 Alberta post-secondaries — have 30 athletes recruited, ready to return to classes in September and the pitch in August for training. The Voyageurs' men's hockey team has a strong core of 20 players ready to suit up for the season, with several transactions reported over the winter months.
While the golf and curling team recruitment generally takes place a little later into the summer season, Bedford says there is already interest.
While there is a push and clear interest to get the sporting component going, Bedford says player, student, staff and community health remains paramount. Portage has a specific health and wellness plan for student athletes, he says, expressing pride that the school's initial reactions to the pandemic measures — being one of the first institutions to officially cancel athletic seasons — put safety ahead of sports. In the months that have followed, he says that like any part of the college experience, lessons have been learned.
“I think everybody has learned something about COVID-19 and how to deal with this pandemic that fits their needs and their lifestyles. So for athletes, we’re putting together a plan at Portage College," he said, confident of the constant attention to health protocols. "I think we will be well prepared when the seasons do go ahead, we’re confident that we can make this work and we can make it a great experience.”
As well as in-person team sports, Bedford is also planning to continue the E-sports commitment that Portage signed into last year. E-sport athletes will also see recruitment opportunities in the coming months. Last year, only one student had signed up to be part of the the college's fledgling e-sports team.