During COVID, members of the University of Victoria Vikes have been keeping small circles in order to keep their family members safe. Women’s field hockey player Sophia Berk has also kept a tight circle, not only for her loved ones’ safety, but also for the safety of the people she interacts with at work.
“It’s a really important time in our world right now and there are a lot of people that still require assistance – pandemic or no pandemic. It’s my job to be responsible and help keep them safe,” said Berk.
Since December 2018, Berk has been working for The Kensington Victoria Retirement Residence as a food service attendant, where she takes orders, serves, delivers, sets up and cleans eating areas for members of the residence.
“I have been very impressed by Sophia’s desire to make a difference working with the elderly, take classes to improve her knowledge and to stay fit to improve her mental and physical well-being during this difficult time,” said field hockey head coach Lynne Beecroft.
Berk has been listed as a casual worker for nearly the past three years, where they call upon her if they require help. If it fits around her busy school and field hockey schedule, she will jump at the opportunity.
“The flexibility of this job has been perfect for me over the years. But since COVID happened, they were short on staff and seen as I didn’t have any school or field hockey games, I was working as much as four times a week,” said Berk, who helped win the Vikes capture their 13th U SPORTS National Championship last November. “It’s been awesome to have a routine and a schedule during this chaotic time. I enjoy talking to the residents and smiling everyday. It’s a job that makes me happy.”
With the heightened sensitivity towards the older population, Berk gladly goes through the strict safety measures before and during each shift.
Upon arrival, staff are screened with COVID-related questions. Berk then has her temperature checked before she applies hand sanitizer, gloves, a medical mask, goggles and a face shield. Whenever she isn’t wearing gloves, she is vigorously washing their hands.
“I was always anxious about COVID. I’ve stayed smart, kept a tight circle, washed my hands lots and have always worn a mask. For me, it’s not just my life I could be affecting,” said Berk. “All I can do is hope and trust that others around me are being just as careful. I would hate to be the one to bring COVID into my family or work situation.”
As a result of her loyalty to her employer and patients, Berk has been forced to sacrifice some summer activities.
As businesses began to open up late in summer, she didn’t visit patios or restaurants. When friends got together with a larger number that she felt comfortable with, she declined the invite.
With COVID not going anywhere, Berk also saw her field hockey schedule get compromised.
“We were fortunate in a way when it came to our sport. We got our regular season and playoffs in last year,” said Berk, a business student. “After November, a lot of the girls on our team play in the local women’s league. We got our regular season in but had to cut playoffs short.”
Unfortunately, the 2020 season wasn’t as lucky.
The pandemic forced the cancellation of the U23 provincial team (a team that usually features a strong Vikes contingent), a Vikes exhibition trip to New York City to compete against National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I programs, their Canada West fall season and a chance to three-peat as national champions.
Locally, with no access to turfs, Berk has been working on her stick skills in the backyard and on the carpet inside her parent’s house – so long as she didn’t break anything. Lucky for her as a defender, she didn’t have to rip shots at a makeshift goal all summer.
Training wise, she managed. She logged plenty of hours working on her cardio, running around her neighbourhood.
Eventually, the turfs opened up in August, which allowed Berk and a select few of her teammates practice passing drills while remaining socially distant.
While everyone waits for life to return to normal, Berk will continue to do her part to keep everyone as safe as possible.