Keeping up with the Cougars: How Abbey Gillette is making do without basketball during the COVID-19 pandemic
By Gage Smith, Contributor
In November 2019, then-fourth year guard Abbey Gillette and the Mount Royal University (MRU) Cougars women’s basketball team were faced with two games in two days against the University of Regina. Gillette says they have a “really strong basketball program,” and they were set up for a challenge.
Even as MRU was cheered on by a record-breaking home crowd, Regina was able to take a 67-52 victory. The Cougars were determined to strike back the next day.
“We came out and we had so much chemistry. Everybody really stepped up their game,” says Gillette. She dropped a game-high 20 points and led MRU to a 71-68 revenge win.
“I remember playing that game and how it felt to be a part of it,” Gillette says. “It was just a really fun game to play.”
Whether it’s a loss during the regular season or a loss of her basketball season, Gillette has learned that the sense of community within the Cougars has been critical when overcoming her challenges. On the court, their synergy drove them to a win, and off the court, Gillette says the relationships she’s developed have been a “saving grace” through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Having people checking in on you and supporting you and holding you accountable during a time where there are so many uncertainties has been really helpful to keep my mental health in check and feel like I’m not alone,” she says.
The Cougars Athletics community has also helped Gillette to maintain her physical health through the lockdowns. She says her conditioning coach, Jack Boyle, has been able to adapt the team’s workouts to be done separately from each other, and without some equipment they would normally have needed.
Working out at home doesn’t have the same appeal as playing your favourite sport in front of a sea of passionate fans, but Gillette has the same answer to that challenge as she did to losing to Regina: “Lean on your friends.”
“It sounds weird, but work out with your friends over Zoom,” she says. “It honestly makes things so much more enjoyable. It keeps your friends accountable, gives you a routine, and helps you have something to look forward to.”
Mixing it up is another good way to stay active in the pandemic. Gillette has picked up all sorts of new activities, including boxing, yoga, and high-intensity interval training to keep motivated. A healthy dose of variety and community has kept her in peak condition.
“There were definitely days where I didn’t feel like working out, but I had my friends and family. I’d shoot them a text or give them a call, and they pushed me,” she says.
The pandemic has been hard on everyone, presenting each of us with unique challenges to fight through. Gillette says the transition has been tough, but she still reflects fondly on her time as an MRU Cougar.
“As my time at Mount Royal winds down, I’ve mostly felt an overwhelming feeling of gratitude,” she says. “I was super lucky to experience that.”