Although the future is still uncertain for high school sports in B.C., the governing body recently released some hopeful news.
In a press release, BC School Sports said they are working on a detailed return-to-sport plan for each fall sport.
“Our reality is that school sport is going to look different in the fall,” wrote BCSS executive director Jordan Abney. “Having our traditional celebrated provincial championships is going to be unlikely in most, if not all sports.”
Abney said BCSS is trying to get its return-to-sport plan together by early August, but they will wait to release it until after they hear the Ministry of Education’s return-to-school plan, which is expected in mid-to-late August.
“We know that the football programs around the province are preparing for a return on August 24 for their traditional two-weeks of pre-season camp, and our football commission has already done a tremendous amount of work preparing to safely do this.”
Unlike B.C. Rugby’s fully detailed “roadmap” back to rugby, Abney’s release was short on details. However, Abney did hint at what might be coming.
“We will focus on fall sports to begin with, and evaluate the risk factors and modifications required to make school sport viable,” he wrote. “In some sports, this may mean access to some localized competition. In other sports, this may mean being limited to training and only in a very controlled setting.”
Abney explained many factors are currently out of BCSS’s control right now.
The release, posted to the BCSS website July 13, also acknowledged the colossal duress students have come under during the pandemic of 2020.
“We recognize the massive importance of co-curricular activities such as school sport to the mental and physical health of the students,” wrote Abney. “In recent weeks, there have been studies published noting the significant decline in the mental health of students in the absence of normalized education and specifically the lack of co-curricular engagement over the past four months.”
Abney called these red flags and added they represent the dangerous reality students are living in without access to school and school sport.
“BCSS has a responsibility to ensure we bring back as much sport and normalcy as we can to support their well-being,” Abney noted. “We remain committed to this while also acknowledging that we will not sacrifice the health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, officials and administrators.”
The release, sent to all member-school principals, athletic directors, superintendents, high school sport commissioners, and others, also highlighted the “great significance” high school sports play in the school community and greater community.
“We have been receiving pressure from parents and coaches encouraging us to push the boundaries of the guidelines,” Abney revealed. “We understand the frustration that comes with the current restrictions and urgency for clarity of what our realities will be in September.”
Abney noted that while the province is currently in Phase 3 of its reopening plan, sports are still spinning in Phase 2—which means there are still a bunch of limitations on what organized sporting groups can do.
“While BCSS is an independent organization, we will be using the guidelines and direction from the Provincial Health Officer in conjunction with the return-to-sport guidelines from the provincial government as the foundation for our return-to-sport plan,” Abney wrote.
Abney also warned against kids signing up with pay-to-play private sports organizations and leagues that run outside a school’s purview.
“We are also aware that many private entities … are disregarding the provincial return-to-sport guidelines entirely,” Abney wrote. “These entities, often focused on generating profit are using messaging suggesting that school sport will not happen to recruit students to their programs.”
Abney called that approach unfortunate and opportunistic, noting that schools provide the lowest barrier of entry to sports.
“The significance of representing one’s school on a team is a privilege that still holds great esteem to our student-athletes.”
BC School Sports governs more than 90,000 student athletes in more than 450 schools. They oversee 62 provincial championships in 19 sports.