BERNIE PUCHALSKI

High school athletes won’t be chasing provincial championships anytime soon.

The Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations announced it had come to the difficult decision to cancel fall championships that were scheduled for October and November. The sports affected are girls basketball, boys volleyball, cross country, girls field hockey, golf and football.

“The decision is in alignment with the province’s Stage 3 reopening regulations. Those regulations apply a number of restrictions to sports and recreation activities that ultimately prohibit the possibility of OFSAA events,” read a statement from OFSAA president Nick Rowe.

The statement noted OFSAA’s Return to Sports Working Group, made up of school administrators, teachers, a director of education, a public health official and OFSAA staff, will continue to monitor the situation as time goes on.

“Decisions concerning the status of OFSAA winter and spring events will be announced at later dates and when those decisions have been finalized,” Rowe wrote.

On Aug. 7, the District School Board of Niagara announced athletics for fall season sports and all in-school extracurriculars and clubs were on hold and the board would reassess the situation again in October.

Meanwhile at the Niagara Catholic District School Board, an Aug. 5 letter from Director of Education John Crocco stated that schools shouldn’t plan field trips and activities requiring group transportation until public health data suggests otherwise; and schools may offer clubs and organized sports only if physical distancing is possible, and equipment and spaces are cleaned and disinfected between each use.

Rina Rode, the District School Board of Niagara’s sports convenor, agreed her board’s decision was disappointing but the right call.

“I think they are putting the focus on the academic picture to start the school year and going from there,” she said. “You can’t really blame them for what they are doing.”

Rode is sympathetic to the athletes, of course, but also the teacher/coaches.

“They are heading into the school year where they are having to learn all new protocols [in the classroom] and then also have to worry about all the protocols involved with school sports,” she said. “It must be worrisome as well.”

Thankfully for OFSAA and other high school sports governing bodies, they will be able to use all the return to sports protocols being developed by the various provincial sporting groups.

“We also have independent schools within our association and they may opt to try to get some sports done,” Rode said. “That is still a conversation we have to look at. There are lots of questions but not a lot of answers.”

Niagara Catholic Athletic Association sports convenor Chris McLean is still trying to get his head around many of the questions after spending time at a family cottage.

“I haven’t had any discussions yet because we have been waiting for announcements to come out and I am anticipating that I will have more direction within the next two weeks.”

McLean isn’t making any predictions about the return of high school sports.

“Is it possible? I am not sure yet,” he said. “I haven’t really sat down with senior management to discuss school sports.”

The OFSAA announcement will be part of those discussions.

“That is obviously going to kick off those conversations,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we want to get kids active and we will be doing everything we can. If there is a way to get the kids involved and participating in extracurriculars in a way that is safe for everyone involved, we will make sure we do it.”

Golf tournaments are now being played in Niagara and across the province but even that sport has safety concerns at the high school level.

“There is an issue with transporting kids to competitions and to follow all the rules that are mandated, I just don’t know how that all happens,” Rode said. “I’m sure as the weeks go by it is going to be a little bit more of a clearer picture.”

Another complicating factor is the grouping of high school students into two cohorts, each going to school twice a week and then alternating which one has the third day of the week in class.

 

For more Niagara sports news, check out bpsportsniagara.com