Capilano University Blues assistant coach Jenn Bodnar of Agassiz (at left with Blues guard Simrat Dosanjh and at right in her nurse scrubs) has switched focus from the sidelines to the front lines of public health. (Contributed Photo/Capilano University)

Blues to scrubs: Former Agassiz basketball coach works COVID-19 frontlines

Jenn Bodnar is a registered nurse at Royal Columbian

The 15-3 Capilano University Blues could have been champions by now, basking in cheers and accolades. They were Nanaimo-bound to play in a second qualifier out of the PACWEST conference.

But the CCAA national women’s basketball championships were canceled, another event in a massive, worldwide list of events cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus. COVID-19 silenced the crowd and virtually put the path to championship glory – and the lives of the players, coaches and audience – on hold for now.

CapU women’s basketball assistant coach and Agassiz native Jenn Bodnar stepped off the court an into the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic as a registered nurse at New Westerminster’s Royal Columbian Hospital.

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Bodnar just finished her sixth season with the Blues, according to a recent release from Capilano University. She has worked as a registered nurse for about a year.

“I’ve always loved my job, but it’s nice to see everyone come together in the hospital,” Bodnar said in a statement. “We’re all supporting each other, finding that team feel, like being on a basketball team.”

Bodnar said the protocol has changed when it comes to personal protection equipment (PPE) since the COVID-19 outbreak. Before the pandemic, most PPE use was situational, but during the pandemic, it’s required at all times.

“You’re sweating and hot and sometimes you feel like you can’t breathe, but it’s good,” Bodnar said.

A former Blue guard and two-time conference all-star player, Bodnar is heartbroken for her players.

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“[The tournament’s cancellation] was super, super disappointing,” she recalled. “I’m still disappointed for the girls, especially the seniors. They worked their whole career to get the chance. To have them not get the opportunity…. I just remember the sadness in the gym [the day we found out.] There were tears and every emotion you can feel. I’m still sad for the girls, but I don’t know if it’s really set in yet because I have been busy with work.”

Though the emotions are still very raw and real, the players have rallied behind Bodnar as she fights against COVID-19.

“All the support all my players have shown me, sending messages saying ‘We’re here for you,’ ‘Do you need groceries?’,” Bodnar said. “They’re checking in on me.”

Bodnar and her fellow hospital staff have loved the community’s support and applause every evening at 7 p.m. Emergency vehicles line up with lights and sirens down East Columbia street in New West as residents bang pots and pans from their doorsteps.

“The nurses and doctors are out on the roads every day and watching from the windows,” Bodnar said. “Under normal circumstances, I think that we kind of fly under the radar, so it’s nice to see that people support you and show their appreciation.”

Bodnar said the lessons she learned and skills she developed on the court prepared her for her off-court career.

“Basketball was actually a help in me even getting into the nursing program (at BCIT),” Bodnar said. “In interviews, we were asked to give examples of time management, leadership and things like that. The majority of examples I gave were from basketball.

“Not that any of us have prepared for this, but I’m a nurse and this is what we signed up for.”

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