Youth sports teams anxiously waiting for B.C. government to announce next phase
VANCOUVER -- The soccer season is just around the corner, but under the current COVID-19 guidelines, games still can’t be played as normal.
“All clubs have really had to reinvent what they do on the field and come up with exercises that meet the criteria of being physically distanced and being safe,” said Gregor Young, executive director for the Vancouver United Football Club. “For the most part, it’s still kids in grids with lots of cones on the field.”
Sports are currently in the "transition measures" phase, which comes with a number of restrictions covering everything from shared equipment to spectators. Contact sports "should look for non-contact alternatives to training," according to guidelines published by viaSport.
On Tuesday, the province announced a $1.5 million investment into local sports, to help boost programs during these challenging times. The season is set to begin in September and go until March break, but it remains unclear what it’s going to look like.
“The planning is almost month-to-month right now,” said Young.
“We’ve actually delayed the registration,” said John White, chair of the North Shore Youth Soccer Association. “We should have had all our registration done by now.”
Young said they’ve got a “very” liberal refund policy, and he and others have high hopes that the season will go on.
“You’re going to get all or almost all your money back if there isn’t a season, and we’re still quite optimistic there will be a regular season,” he said.
In June, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced youth sports were likely coming “very soon” in the province. “We want sports to get going this summer. That’s really important,” she said during her June 11 news conference.
The topic was also addressed the day before by Premier John Horgan, who said “minor soccer, for example, should be up and running as of June 12.”
But we have seen daily COVID-19 case numbers tick up, so it’s no surprise to leagues they’re still in the second phase.
“We’ll continue to work with the provincial health officer as we move forward towards more competitive phases,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture. “The goal is to make sure we’re getting kids, families, youth, seniors out on the fields, out onto the rink, actually physically active again and enjoying sport as we all should be doing.”
“I want the kids to be safe I want the parents to be safe,” said White. "If it takes a little bit longer to get that way, then so be it.”
For indoor sports such as hockey, there are even more requirements necessary before players can hit the ice. The Vancouver Hockey Association is still waiting for both the City and Park Board, to give them a start date and guidelines.
“It’s really frustrating,” said Nick Santorelli, acting president of the Vancouver Hockey Association, when comparing this municipality to others. "The City of Vancouver has three minor hockey associations and we’re the only city or only associations that don’t have a start date at this point.”
A spokesperson for the Vancouver Park Board told CTV News they’re reviewing plans for services and facilities that were closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “In a typical year, the majority of park board ice rinks are not operational during the summer, as they shut down for maintenance. We are aware there is demand from the hockey and skating community to have the rinks reopened for the fall and are working hard on a reopening plan in support of that demand.”
Santorelli said the lack of a firm plan is going to significantly affect their start dates because usually summer camps get underway in the middle of August. “Typically it takes two weeks to get employees back to work and another two weeks to prepare the building for us to use,” he said.
As soon as they get a date and guildelines from the city, Santorelli said they are ready to get rolling.
“I think it’s taken too long,”said Santorelli. “I wish there were conversations with city officials back in May, June, even the early part of July.”