Calgary minor sports organizations struggle to adapt to province’s new COVID-19 rules

Calgary minor sports organizations are busy trying to find places for young athletes to practise now that the province has changed the rules for youth sports.

On Saturday, the province made a surprise announcement that it would allow people 18 and under to take part in practices, lessons and conditioning activities again. The changes to the COVID-19 rules went into effect on Monday.

Read more: COVID-19: Kids back at practice as in-person dining and gyms open in Alberta on Monday

There can only be 10 people in a a group, including coaches. Everyone must maintain physical distancing and masks must be worn except when engaging in the physical activity.

The weekend announcement came just days after Hockey Alberta cancelled the remainder of the season.

Read more: Alberta government adds minor sports training, gymnastics and dance to Monday’s COVID-19 reopening

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“It came as a bit of a surprise to us, especially since about a week after ourselves and Hockey Alberta had also deferred the remainder of the competitive season,” said Ringette Calgary president Erika Earle.

The announcement has left many sports organizations with lots of questions, including “where can we play?” and “how does this work?”

“We would have to know, does the 10 players apply to a half-ice surface or a full-ice surface? The entire facility as a whole?” Earle asked.

The City of Calgary is working on getting city-owned facilities open but can’t guarantee that will happen this week.

“Getting this information on a Saturday is tough. Some of the things we need to consider is staffing impacts over the last couple of months. We need to address those. We need to reach out to our user groups to see what the demand is going to be,” said Jarret Hoebers, the City of Calgary’s recreation regional manager.

He said the hundreds of layoffs his department has experienced since the start of the pandemic has had a big impact.

“We have had just over 700 people terminated. Just over 500 in temporary layoffs. Our most recent layoffs happened in January. Right now, we are currently operating with only about 10 per cent of our front-line staff,” Hoebers said.

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The head of Sport Calgary said sports organizations were caught off guard by what she called a lack of communication from the province.

“The lack of communication is very frustrating for everyone,”  said Catriona Le May Doan, president of Sport Calgary.

A spokesperson for the Calgary Catholic School District said there will be no change to school-based athletics — all of that remains suspended.

Hockey Calgary is meeting Monday night to determine how to operate a development program over the next six to eight weeks and talking with arenas to see which ones will open.

The director of the Calgary Senior High School Athletic Association said the executive team is meeting this week to discuss the changes.

On Jan. 15, the organization updated its training information to say that “due to the continued provincial restrictions, the decision has been made to extend the suspension of all high school team practice/training through the Family Day weekend.”

The CALTAF Athletic Association told its members in a statement Monday morning that the provincial announcement came as a surprise and so they will “stay the course.”

“While we welcome this news and see it as a positive step forward, CALTAF made the proactive move last week to provide our members with a refund/credit,” the statement reads.

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“AHS assured us that only school sports and one-on-one coaching were allowed and that this restriction would not be lifted before the beginning of our outdoor season.”

“Facilities and associations were taken by surprise with the announcement of the easing of the restrictions on Saturday,” said CALTAF administrator Paula McKenzie. “Once again, the rules are vague and open to interpretation by our governing bodies and our indoor facilities.

“The total of 10 in a cohort makes it exceedingly challenging to rent enough indoor space hours to cycle our 150 members through.”

The Calgary Minor Soccer Association said it welcomed the provincial government’s announcement that COVID-19 restrictions would be eased to include groups of 10.

“We don’t know what it means for soccer,” the CMSA said in a statement issued to Global News. “We’re taking the information and processing it.

“Right now, we’re proceeding with the utmost caution and happy kids are able to return to the field to train in small groups, benefiting both their mental and physical health.”

Shannon Doram, the president and CEO of YMCA Calgary, told Global News that while she welcomes the announcement by the province, the situation is “somewhat challenging given our facilities are closed.”

“We are working internally and closely with our partners to determine what we can resume safely and efficiently within the new restrictions,” she said. “We will need some time to make that plan and will then communicate it with our staff, our partners and the larger community.

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“We know there is great excitement about these changes and we thank you for your patience as we work through this process.”

Doram added that as rules ease, the YMCA aims to ramp up its programming but also realizes it needs to be flexible as the public health situation remains fluid.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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