When Chinook School Division students return to classes next week they can also anticipate returning to fields and courts in pursuit of their favourite athletic endeavours. But that return will be significantly different from previous years.
Chinook’s Director of Education Kyle McIntyre said work is occurring in order for students to be able to participate in modified versions of high school fall sports which include soccer, football, volleyball, and cross country running.
“The group that I see getting disadvantaged or impacted the most are children. We’re taking a lot of stuff away from kids during COVID. And a lot of it, most of us that have children that are active in band, or choral, or drama, or volleyball, or soccer, or football, all those kids have been impacted. So our board really has looked at some of the success that has occurred with community groups,” McIntyre said during a recent interview.
The Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association (SHSAA) issued their Return to School Sports document on August 31 which opens the door to the resumption of athletics in September. Their document notes that while school sport as it has been previously known may not be possible until there is a COVID-19 vaccine, they are aiming to minimize the risk of virus transmission through some sport modifications. Their initial recommendations is that no spectators will be allowed during games, and they have recommendations for how to handle spectators when they are allowed.
McIntyre noted that Chinook’s return to sports will be following the Re-Open Saskatchewan principles that have been set by the Business Response Unit and the Saskatchewan Health Authority.
“We have decided that extra curricular events in our School Division are important for kids, but they are voluntary. If staff is not comfortable, we don’t want them delivering that. If parents aren’t comfortable putting their kids into extra curricular activities we’re ok with that too. But we want to provide the opportunity as an organization for kids to connect with teachers and sports staff outside of the classroom to engage in physical activity that we know that is good for them. But we have to follow some of those safe practices and hygienic measures that we know are going to keep kids and staff healthy.”
And while tournaments are not allowed by SHSAA, school divisions are working on ways to allowing teams to train and compete.
“So it’s probably not going to look like how it has in the past. I think you’re probably going to see, as long as students and communities are healthy and safe and we don’t have numbers, I think you’ll see some micro leagues being set up in Chinook School Division,” Mcintyre said.
“We might not be running 12-man football, but we might be running 7v7. And we might see the Comp playing Maple Creek and Shaunavon and Gull Lake. We might be seeing 6vs6 football. We might be seeing 7vs7 soccer. And maybe if everyone remains healthy and safe, we might be playing Moose Jaw or Weyburn or Estevan. But you won’t see any kind of an overnight or a provincial championships or large provincial tournaments that we’ve seen in the past.”
“And you probably won’t see students or coaches travelling on buses or in 15-passenger vans. So I think we’re going to start small. We’re going to start with a Return to Train protocol. We’re going to move probably into some intramural type activities in our schools. And then I think we’ll move into some either division or some geographical games or friendlies.”
“If the numbers remain safe, and if the virus is contained, I think that will expand and expand into other sports.”
Admittedly the highest risk sports are football, basketball and wrestling, so they will be tasked to think out those sports and work with Health Authority for recommended practices and procedures to do it safely.
“But I think we have to try it. And if things come off the rails we’ll certainly do what we need to do. But initially I think those types of outlets are important for kids.”
SHSAA has also encouraged mask use under the following circumstances:
- participants in training situations where physical distancing is not always maintained.
- participants when not actively involved in the competition.
- by coaches, team personnel, on site support staff, and officials.
- in schools where the school or school division policy mandates mask use.
The SHSAA document also recommends that schools promote their sports programs during the month of September and conduct the following abbreviated seasons: Cross-Country Training (Sept. 28 to Oct. 17 with no inter-school competition but an opportunity to participate in a virtual provincial event); Soccer (October 5 to 31, modified competition only); Football (October 13 to November 14, modified competition only); Volleyball (October 19 to November 28, modified competition only).