The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge disappointment to many freshmen athletes eager to play their first season at the university level.
Among them is former Kwalikum Kondors soccer player Marcus Walker, who committed to the Vancouver Island University Mariners men’s team.
The 18-year-old from Qualicum Beach said he was looking forward to making his debut in the Pacific Western Athletic Association but COVID-19 has kept the league from taking place.
“I am so disappointed,” said Walker. “It’s no one’s fault because no one can control it. It sucks but it will have to be next year I guess, when things are back to normal.”
Walker was a top player for the Kondors. He plays midfield, a position where he adeptly gauges offensive opportunities and covers defensive lapses. VIU head coach Larry Stefanek recruited Walker.
“Marcus is a talented player who I knew through our Upper Island Storm program and as a player at Kwalikum Secondary,” said Stefanek.
“I recruited Marcus to VIU due to his excellent technical skills and his ability to play in multiple positions such as central midfield, right or left wing or up front as a striker. He is a natural left-footed player who has good vision, is comfortable on the ball and is very coachable.”
Walker did get an offer to play for a college in Grand Prairie but chose VIU because he likes the school’s program as well as already being familiar with the coach.
Soccer has always been Walker’s favourite sport since he started at age four. The only other sport he engaged in was in taekwondo at the former Parksville Taekwondo Club, where he earned his black belt.
“I have been playing soccer for 13, 14 years now,” said Walker. “I just loved being in a team and enjoyed it. I started to get serious about it and thought I maybe could advance and play at a higher level, like university level or something. And now that I made it at VIU, I still have to wait to play my first game with the team.”
For now, Walker keeps himself in shape with the Nanaimo U21 in the Vancouver Island Soccer League. He trains twice with the club and plays once a week.
“It’s nice that I am playing right now,” said Walker. “We have a good team and it looks like it’s going to be a good season.”
Walker is taking a Bachelor of Science course majoring in global studies. Due to COVID-19, Walker said he’s doing most of his courses online at home.
“It’s really weird that in my first year of university I am doing all my studying at home,” said Walker. “It’s nice to be in university but I have yet to experience what it would be like being in campus. It’s kind of strange.”
Stefanek has indicated that the PacWest is still working to get the schools playing in the spring semester from January to March. It’s still uncertain at this time but Stefanek and Walker are keeping their fingers crossed.
“Although it is always difficult for first year players, we do expect Marcus to be involved and play some minutes before long with our team,” said Stefanek. “Given the implications of COVID we will see how things go as our season is cancelled but we are looking forward to seeing Marcus in action before long.”