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No high school sports this fall, says OFSAA

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Local high school athletes will have to wait longer for a return to sports.

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The Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations has announced that fall championships scheduled for October and November have been cancelled due to COVID-19.

“People were hoping we’d be able to do something for the student-athletes but once OFSAA cancelled everything it forced the hand of the school boards to cancel athletics for us,” said Dave Thomas, who is the Grand Erie District School Board’s athletic program consultant for the Athletic Association of Brant Haldimand Norfolk.

So, the Grand Erie and Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic boards have cancelled sports events this fall. That means there will be no girls basketball, boys volleyball, football, golf, tennis or cross-country.

“It’s frustrating but, at the end of the day, as educators, we have to realize that the kids have been out of school for six months,” Thomas said. “Our priority is getting them back into school and into a routine for their academics.

“And we need to be safe.”

This area’s regional body – the Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association – was meeting Wednesday. Although a decision was not known by press time, it is expected that it, too, will cancel all fall sports championships.

In terms of playing team sports during the pandemic, one of the many issues is equipment.

“At the end of the day, equipment can’t be shared,” said Steve Petrella, the Catholic board’s athletic co-ordinator for AABHN.

“Everything has to be sanitized after each use. It would be very difficult.”

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Thomas said another issue affecting sports is the health requirement of maintaining physical distancing of at least two metres.

He said the safety of everyone returning to school is of paramount concern.

“Hopefully, a second wave (of COVID-19) doesn’t hit but, if it does, you don’t want sports to be one of the causes.”

Canadian colleges and universities have cancelled all sports until Jan. 1 and the NCAA in the U.S. also has cancelled or postponed many sports. There has been some talk of moving NCAA football to the spring, if sports resumes by that point.

Moving fall sports to the spring could cause conflicts locally with some traditional spring sports, such as soccer, rugby, baseball, fastball and track and field.

Petrella said it is possible the AABHN will discuss the idea.

“Up for conversation, yeah, but we haven’t really said anything for sure,” he said.

“But (falls sports) will conflict with (spring sports). At the end of the day, if we are able to do that, kids will likely have to pick one sport to play.”

Petrella said any conversation about the resumption and rescheduling of high school sports is one for a different day.

“It’s a matter of seeing what the first month or two of school looks like and then making a decision from there,” he said.

“I think (safety is) No. 1. I look at my own kids. I want them to go back to a safe environment. Once it’s been one or two months, we can see where we’re at and things might change.”

With the AABHN set to begin its first season after amalgamating the three counties earlier this year, Thomas said the pause gives them more time to ensure everything runs smoothly.

“We would have been ready to go,” said Thomas.

“There’s still some finishing touches on our constitution and playing (regulations) so now it’s given us a bit of breathing time.”

The AABHN now has a website. Although doesn’t have much content as of yet, Thomas said he expects updates and messaging to be posted soon.

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