Sports groups mull how play might re­sume

COVID-19 re­stric­tions may be eas­ing but dis­tanc­ing rules will re­main in ef­fect

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - KRIS­TEN ANDERSON kan­der­son@post­media.com Twit­ter: @Kdotander­son

Chil­dren and par­ents have been ea­gerly an­tic­i­pat­ing the Al­berta gov­ern­ment’s re­lax­ation of public health rules, counting down the days un­til they can hit the fields, di­a­monds and pitches around the city.

After last week’s an­nounce­ment that out­door gath­er­ings have in­creased to 50 people, Cal­gary mi­nor sports are cau­tiously op­ti­mistic as they be­gin to plan ways to im­ple­ment nec­es­sary safety pre­cau­tions with a fo­cus on phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing.

“Def­i­nitely, a re­turn to sport, a re­turn to play, a re­turn to move­ment is ex­cel­lent,” said Su­san Cress, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Cal­gary Mi­nor Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion. “I think ev­ery­body is just ready to get some type of sem­blance of their old rou­tine, a re­turn to some of their fam­ily rit­u­als around sport. That’s a very pos­i­tive thing. It’s early days, for sure.

“The an­nounce­ments seem to come re­ally fast and then you spend a cou­ple of days try­ing to sort through what that re­ally means for your sport.”

Cress said CMSA was happy to see the news that the ap­prox­i­mately 20,000 mi­nor soc­cer play­ers in Cal­gary will even­tu­ally be able to re­sume skills train­ing and re-en­gage with the soc­cer community, after be­ing cooped up since the global out­break of COVID-19 put sports on hold.

A month ago, the out­look was look­ing bleak as the prov­ince banned out­door gath­er­ings of 15 people or more through the end of Au­gust in the fight against the novel coronaviru­s.

But Dr. Deena Hin­shaw, Al­berta’s chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health, amended that man­date be­fore the May long week­end to al­low out­door gath­er­ings of up to 50 people, al­though in­door gath­er­ings of more than 15 people are still pro­hib­ited.

Phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing of two me­tres is also still in ef­fect.

In Cal­gary, fields and recre­ation fa­cil­i­ties re­main closed for or­ga­nized team games or activities. Book­ings at are­nas, ath­letic parks, fields and school gyms are closed for book­ings up to Aug. 31.

“Cur­rently, no one is al­lowed per­mits, so it’s about keep­ing in touch with the city about when they will be re­open­ing per­mit­ting,” said Bur­gundy Bilet­ski, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Field Hockey Al­berta. “I think we’re still a bit of a ways out be­fore we’re ac­tu­ally get­ting to our nor­mal pro­gram­ming.

“We’ve been work­ing on a re­turn-to-play pro­to­col and some prac­tice plans that would en­tail so­cial dis­tanc­ing and try­ing to see what that looks like.”

Field Hockey Al­berta re­cently can­celled its spring sea­son but could look at re­sum­ing ac­tion and of­fer­ing camps later this sum­mer, de­pend­ing on whether more re­stric­tions are lifted.

Frank Natt, pres­i­dent of Cal­gary Dis­trict Lacrosse As­so­ci­a­tion, said they’re do­ing their due dili­gence to en­sure their par­tic­i­pants will be cov­ered by Al­berta Lacrosse As­so­ci­a­tion insurance in a grad­ual re­turn to ac­tiv­ity.

They’re also look­ing at utiliz­ing gloves and masks, along with re­strict­ing par­ent drop-offs to ad­here to guide­lines.

“There wouldn’t be any con­tact or any­thing like that be­cause that would be in vi­o­la­tion of re­stric­tions.” Still, he said, “re­stricted ac­tiv­ity is bet­ter than no ac­tiv­ity.”

Natt said the Al­berta Lacrosse As­so­ci­a­tion, like most mi­nor sports or­ga­ni­za­tions, is sub­mit­ting a plan to Al­berta Health Ser­vices for ap­proval.

Hockey Cal­gary had its sea­sons abruptly end when the shut­down be­gan in March. But ac­cord­ing to Kevin Ko­belka, op­tions such as dry­land and small area skills train­ing at out­door are­nas are be­ing con­sid­ered in July in com­pli­ance with Al­berta Health Ser­vices pro­to­col.

“We’ve been told (fa­cil­i­ties) won’t be opened un­til Sept. 1,” he said. “We’re hop­ing cases (of COVID-19) are go­ing to start to ease and we’re hop­ing we’ll start to see fa­cil­i­ties start to open in July, then we can start putting kids back on the ice on a small scale ba­sis.

“That’s a big dream ... But that would be our goal.”

Cress added that CMSA re­ceives rec­om­men­da­tions from the gov­ern­ing bod­ies of Al­berta Soc­cer and Canada Soc­cer, which are draft­ing re­turn-to-play pro­to­cols avail­able within the next week.

Al­berta Soc­cer has man­dated that or­ga­nized soc­cer re­mains on pause un­til the end of May.

Cress an­tic­i­pates kids will be able to be­gin skill ses­sions and prac­tices some­time in June.

“I think (this) week will be re­ally im­por­tant,” she said. “I know kids have been spend­ing the bet­ter part of eight to 10 weeks in front of Zoom calls and Mi­crosoft Team Meet­ings, try­ing to con­nect with their teams.

“I think (the lifted re­stric­tions are) ex­cit­ing — I think it’s good news.”

JIM WELLS

Su­san Cress, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Cal­gary Mi­nor Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion, says it may soon be pos­si­ble for 20,000 play­ers to re­sume skills train­ing.

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