High School Athletics amidst Omicron Variant

By Stephen Lylyk on January 24, 2022

Spalding Basketball, Official Brand of Saskatchewan High School Athletics. (Pixabay Photos, Sept.9, 2015)

The beginning of the School year in Saskatchewan marked the return of High School athletics after their cancellation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

“The fall of 2021 saw 13,500 Student-Athletes engaged in sport,” said Saskatchewan High School Athletics Association Assistant Executive Jeff Kitts.

There have been notable positive effects amongst High School students as a result of the return of athletics.

“In terms of impact,” said Aaron Anderson Commissioner of Athletics for the Regina High School Athletics Association. “Schools have reported this year has been tremendous in their buildings to have schools return to extra-curricular activity.”

However, with the exponential rise of cases in the province due to the Omicron variant concerns due to the surge the reality of COVID has created obstacles in the athletic calendar.

“The Regina High School Athletics Association,” says Anderson, “continues to run all four of our winter sports. We have had some postponements in hockey, basketball, wrestling, and curling, but all games were rescheduled.”

As Anderson explained the basketball games in question were rescheduled due to teams not having the required minimum amount of seven athletes necessary to compete.

“Our 16 member high schools handle all cases between administrators, athletic directors, and coaches,” explains Anderson. “When teams are unable to be fielded safely they will inform the RHSAA. I will then postpone the game and communicate with coaches to reschedule it at its earliest convenience

The difficulties regarding Omicron have the potential to affect provincial tournaments throughout the semester

“Provincial championship dates are set two years in advance,” Kitts explained. “This makes it very difficult to reschedule as we can’t predict how the virus will spread, and the impact that will have on schools and teams.”

In some, instances athletic tournaments will occur in a public facility. With that in mind, Kitts explains that “If there is a vaccine policy in place [at a public facility] the school would follow the policy of the facility.”

The Callie Curling Club, host of the High School City Championship tournament, posted an update on COVID related policies to their Website which states

All persons entering the building must be masked and double vaccinated… We would ask that if you feel unwell that you remain home as well.”

Schools across Saskatchewan have had their own COVID policies regarding hosting athletic events throughout the schoolyear.

In the lead-up to Volleyball Provincial Championships back in late November a representative from Moosomin High school explained their COVID policies

All spectators must be masked at all times. Only players who are active on the court can be unmasked.”

Proof of Vaccination is a requirement for attending High-school Athletic events in Saskatchewan. The official Gym Entrance Protocol guidelines listed on the Regina High School Athletics association website states

“All parents and coaches will be required to have a proof of vaccination pass in order to attend any RHSAA event at any member school. Each school will be responsible for creating these passes that will have the phrase ‘fully vaccinated’ somewhere on it.”

Robin Speer, a Communications Director for the Saskatchewan Government, provided this statement regarding the Government position on High School Athletics during COVID.

“Athletics and other activities are an important part of the school experience.  Proof of vaccination is not required under the Public Health Orders for student participation in sports.  Rapid tests are widely available in Saskatchewan and we would encourage people to use them as an additional screening measure.  Anyone with cold or flu symptoms should stay home.”

Athletes across Saskatchewan continue on with the sports calendar year as the Omnicron Variant continues to spread

 

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