There remain a number of unknowns as some students return to the region’s high schools, but one thing is certain: there’ll be no sports this fall.
That comes as no surprise given the measures in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 and fears of a second wave of the disease as the weather changes.
Following the leads of OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletics Associations) and CWOSSA (Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association), the Waterloo County School Athletic Association (WCSSAA) cancelled the 2020-2021 season.
While not unexpected, the decision was met by some disappointment at Elmira District Secondary School (EDSS).
“Unfortunately, with everything going on, it’s understandable,” said co-op program teacher Dave Munroe, who coaches sports such as hockey and football. “I didn’t really go in with expectations that there would be any sports running just because of what happened.”
He notes the cancellation of the upcoming season was less of an issue than pulling the plug on the sports in progress last spring.
“It was more disappointing at the end of last year because we were just about to go to OFSAA that week,” said Monroe of the effort swept away when hockey was cancelled due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. “We had already worked all the way through the season, the guys’ hockey team.”
“I think all the coaches pretty much understand that health and safety-first priority over coaching at this point,” he added of the current situation.
The new reality was reflected in a statement from the Waterloo District Regional School Board (WDRSB) addressing the season’s cancellation.
“We acknowledge how disappointing this news will be for students and families. We recognize the important role that inter-school athletics play in the life of our students’ educational and social experience at school. Our goal is to have students safely participate in sports as soon as we are safely able to do so. The safety, health, and well-being of our students, dedicated staff and volunteers is our top priority. Future decisions about the return of school sports and the status of the WCSSAA winter season will be announced at the direction of the Ministry of Education and Public Health,” the board said in a release.
Although this message leaves hope for an eventual return to sports, everything is still up in the air.
“I’m not overly optimistic with anything really happening until … there’s a vaccination and things go back to normal, just because of the liability [risk],” said Munroe.
If and when there’ll be sports in the second half of the school year remains to be seen. Outside of the schools, organizers of minor hockey, for instance, are making plans for some kind of season, albeit with a number of adjustments to accommodate safety precautions.