The 5 stages of turmoil when your season gets paused by COVID-19

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Kelvin Cech

Steady contributor in multiple roles over the years at the coaches site, former MJHL coach of the year with the Winkler Flyers and assistant coach with the UBC Thunderbirds Men's Hockey team.

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Hang in there, coaches.
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Note: 95% of this article was written after the Winkler Flyers division of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League was put on pause, and was finished when the entire province, and therefore the entire league, was moved to Code Red, effectively shutting down the entire province aside from essential services.

I’ll admit I struggled to find the right keyword for the headline of this post. I considered grief instead of turmoil, but sitting here now, a few days removed from the call that put the Winkler Flyers’ season on hold, it doesn’t fit. Anxiety? Anxiety is a pointless albeit uncontrollable emotion, but it doesn’t dominate my every waking moment.

In case you’re not in the know, a global pandemic has gripped every corner of civilization on this continent, and many haven’t been fortunate. People have died. People are on edge. So I consider myself fortunate to be one of the people who’s merely on edge.

The southern health region of Manitoba recently moved to code red on their pandemic preparedness plan, effectively halting the Flyers season as well as all minor hockey in Winkler. This is a government-mandated stall, not the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s. The league has done an incredible job with the schedule, divisions, and protocol to get through roughly 25% of the regular season so far. And that season is going to continue. Just not for us and the rest of the southern division.

1. Frustration

I learned about the pause after I unwisely picked up my phone after practice.

It was blowing up.

People in town, friends, staff — everyone looks to the leader for answers, and as the head coach of the team I guess that’s me even though I didn’t have any answers to give.

I don’t know when we’ll play again. I don’t know if this affects the league. I don’t know if guys have to go home. Frustration, aggravation, defeat — I felt it all in the first hour or so.

Fortunately I’ve taken protocols and procedures seriously since I got back to Winkler in August, so once I got through the initial frustration it was time to move forward. Straight into…

2. Anxiety

I was initially frustrated but I was able to hold people off while I regrouped.

The problem then became that I was left to my own thoughts while I tried to figure out what to do next. People are in trouble. People are sick. And yes, people have died.

And I was in charge of keeping 25 teenagers engaged for an indeterminate amount of time? Should we even be worrying about hockey? Is my job obsolete? I know everyone will have different answers to these questions, but my brain has this silly habit of considering every single possible outcome in a scenario and then playing the worst of them out for my conscious mind like a drive-in movie.

But that’s part of who I am.

I’ve made it a goal to be comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s not easy, but I tell myself and people around me to lean into the storm because the fastest ships sail in front of the strongest winds. Anxiety is natural and I don’t believe it’s healthy to ignore it and pretend everything is fine. Because everything is not fine.

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