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Interview with Manitoba Bison’s Receiver Colby Kyliuk: Being a Student Athlete during COVID-19

Over the past year and a half, COVID-19 has severely altered society. Many industries have been forced to adapt to a new way of operating in order to keep everyone safe and healthy. One of the groups most affected by the restrictions put in place during the pandemic have been amateur and University sports. Amateur sport does not generate the same amount of revenue that professional sport does, therefore amateur players are often not able to access the same resources. University of Manitoba’s 5th year receiver Colby Kyliuk offers an inside perspective on the challenges of being a student-athlete during COVID-19.

Colby entered the Bisons program straight out of high school in 2016. After initially being recruited as a quarterback Colby quickly transitioned to receiver, a position he has excelled at ever since.

“Overall my experience with the program has been good! I slowly worked my way into the lineup and over the last couple of years I was a part of the travel team, which has been really cool!”

Colby Kyliuk #83 blocks a punt against the U of S Huskies

On the heels of a heartbreaking end to the previous season, one in which a failed 2-point conversion with 0 seconds remaining in the semi-finals resulted in a loss to the eventual national champions U of C, the Bisons players received more bad news this fall when they learned there would not be a season in 2020.

It was a year of high expectations and it definitely got derailed. It wasn’t easy at first but it's one of those things where you have to look at the big picture and realize you’re not the only one being affected by it…at the end of the day safety comes first.”

The Bisons were still able to practice and had an extended offseason in lieu of a regular season, where they were able to practice and train in accordance with provincial guidelines. As a result of the missed season, U-Sports officials decided to extend the eligibility of graduating players an additional year. Although this is a good gesture by the league, it is somewhat controversial;

“The rule as it stands right now is only the guys going in to their last year of eligibility get to come back to play. Any of the guys, like myself, whose eligibility clock has already started have essentially lost a year. Everyone in this situation, with the clock, should not have this year count against them.”

Despite this, Colby is not letting the missed year get him down. Although Colby acknowledges that it was initially hard to accept, he is using the loss of this season as fuel for this upcoming season.

Kyliuk is set to earn his Bachelor of Kinesiology degree in April 2022 and is currently studying for the MCAT exams to fulfill his dream of becoming a doctor. As a student-athlete it is always tough to balance school and sports, with the recent transition to online learning Colby offered some advice to students struggling to adapt to the increased workload.

“I find that the biggest thing is staying on top of your work, reading and doing practice questions daily really helps retain knowledge. Multiple minds are better than one, if you can collaborate with your classmates, even over zoom or FaceTime do it!”

With an additional year of knowledge about the COVID-19 virus, U-SPORTS Canada West Conference has committed to making the upcoming football season a reality for its players. Since the time of the interview, CanWest Conference (The conference the Bisons play in) has officially committed to return to competition in fall of 2021.( The season has been structured with an updated format to ensure player safety during the pandemic. The 2021 CanWest schedule will feature 6 games instead of the usual eight with one game being played against every other team in the conference and an additional game against a neighbouring school.

As the longest tenured player on the Bisons, Kyliuk aims to lead Manitoba on another deep playoff run during his penultimate season. You won’t want to miss it, so make sure you tune in when U-Sports football returns this fall!

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