It’s a game of wait-and-see for most sports
If your youngster plays golf or tennis, the good news is that they are probably already back in action. If lacrosse is their passion, they will be languishing on the sidelines for a while. Possibly the entire summer.
Individual sports which lend themselves more easily to social distancing measures have been reactivated despite the grip of the pandemic. But baseball, lacrosse, and soccer are still playing the waiting game.
If and when youth team sports resume, expect equipment and hands to be sanitized repeatedly throughout games. There will be no huddles, no high fives, no handshakes or team hugs. Lots of space on team benches will be the new norm. Even parents cheering in the bleachers will be spaced wider apart.
Provincial sport bodies have retrofitted their sports with physical-distancing adaptations, and prepared return-to-play proposals. If the summer season can be salvaged, start dates will vary from region to region and sport to sport, based on provincial government timelines and approvals.
One view has consensus amongst all provincial and national youth sport groups: when team sports return, the focus (at least initially) will be on low-risk, individual skill exercises that maintain safe distancing, rather than competitive games. Equipment sharing will be minimal.
The Ontario Lacrosse Association has directed provincial clubs to postpone lacrosse programs until June 15, and is monitoring the situation closely. Cancellation of the 2020 season is a real possibility.
Spencer Tanguay, President of the Pelham Raiders Minor Lacrosse Association, told the Voice that his executive made the difficult decision about a month ago to announce that their teams will not be participating in any competitive lacrosse this summer.
“We are still hoping to offer some sort of lacrosse programming this summer,” he said. “It could be as casual as having open floor time for players to just throw the ball around, or as formal as exhibition games. Our association plans to run these programs at a very modest cost. But nothing will happen without consent from our local and provincial government, along with direction from health professionals.”
Tanguay said that refunds will be issued to parents for any registration fees paid. The association posts weekly skills and drills for players on their website, as well as instructional videos on Facebook and Instagram, which feature Pelham minor lacrosse graduates who have gone on to accomplishments in the game at a higher level.
It won’t be “batter up!” for Pelham Minor Baseball Association (PMBA) anytime soon. A message posted on their website on May 28 indicated that no definitive timeframe for a return to competition had been established by the Ontario Baseball Association (OBA), and that the situation will be revisited on June 15. They do not yet know if the season will be cancelled for either Rep or House League programs. Other baseball associations in Niagara are suggesting that they could operate a season that would extend into September, should they be given approval from the OBA and the provincial government.
Local youth soccer is still in limbo, as Ontario Soccer, in consultation with Canada Soccer and government sport and public health advisors, continues to monitor the most recent developments surrounding the coronavirus. No date for a return to play has been issued in this province. Ontario Soccer (Canada’s biggest provincial sports organization, with some 500,000 participants) submitted its Return to Play plan and is now working with Canada Soccer towards finalizing that document.
The reality is at the present time in Ontario, there is no confirmation from the provincial government regarding amateur (team) sport Return to Play timelines.
The South Niagara Rowing Club (SNRC) was back on the water as of this Monday, June 8t, following the re-opening guidelines created by Rowing Canada and endorsed by Row Ontario. New COVID-19 related measures are being implemented to ensure all rowers, staff, coaches, and volunteers stay healthy and safe. All registered program participants will be required to sign the SNRC COVID Code of Conduct (CCC), and will be given a club orientation of the COVID-19 measures that have been implemented during their first session. Updates and changes will be available on the club website and Facebook page.
Summer programs for experienced and novice rowers are available at various age levels for youth and adults. Much of the training for experienced rowers will be in singles, while novices will receive training in larger crew boats, provided social distancing restrictions are lifted. Members of the same household can row in doubles, in compliance with current social distancing guidelines.
Kevin Fuller, the president of SNRC, noted that the club will strictly adhere to sanitization of oar and sculling blade handles, and other hygiene measures.
Pelham Town Council has approved the opening of the Pelham pool at Marlene Stewart Streit Park this summer, although an opening date has yet to be determined. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that it is unlikely that COVID-19 can be spread through water in pools, although proper operation and maintenance of these facilities (including disinfection with chlorine and bromine) is necessary.
In a Town of Pelham statement, Mayor Marvin Junkin said, “This isn’t happening tomorrow, but we want to be ready when we’re given the green light. Opening the pool, when it happens, will reintroduce some normalcy in these otherwise uncertain times.”
According to the Town, the pool has some 4,500 annual users for swimming lessons, aquafit classes, swim teams, and public swims. When the pool reopens, users will need to come dressed in their swimsuits, since change rooms will not be open. Staff training in COVID-19 aquatic procedures will be implemented.
The dark cloud looming on the horizon is the so-called “second wave” of COVID infection. Dr. Sandy Buchman, president of the Canadian Medical Association, told Global News that physical-distancing complacency in the battle against the virus will take its toll.
“A second wave is inevitable,” he said. “There’s never been a pandemic in recorded history that has not had a second wave, and usually it’s worse than the first one.”
Bushman expects a second wave to strike in the fall.