No decision on high school sports until late summer

Trajectory of COVID-19 infections will determine whether student-athletes get to play in September

A decision on the resumption of high school sports likely won’t happen until August or early September. 

In a message to school administrators and athletic directors, Jordan Abney, the executive director of BC School Sports that governs more than 70,000 student-athletes in Grades 8 to 12, said there are still more questions than answers regarding the challenges of resuming play after spring schedules were abruptly stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the fall could offer anything from a full schedule of activities to a continued stoppage.

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“I am hopeful we will still be able to offer some activities,” Abney said, adding, “I think it should be expected it is likely that any school sport activities will look very different in the coming year.”

Abney said while BC School Sports is able to take some direction from the return to sport guidelines published last week by ViaSport, a government funding agency, the 60 school districts and more than 100 independent schools that comprise his organization face some unique challenges.

Those include the possibility that schools may not be operating at 100% capacity when they return in the fall, or whether gyms will be repurposed to help maintain physical distancing.

Also a concern are insurance and legal considerations that could expose schools and athletic associations to damages and costs if they’re sued because someone has been exposed to COVID-19.

Abney said insurance providers are beginning to insert exclusion clauses for communicable diseases and pandemics into their policies.

“This has led to much discussion around the assumption of risk, and how to define COVID-19 as inherent risk and the validity of waivers and other risk management techniques,” he said.

But with summer break approaching, Abney said school sports administrators have the advantage of time and the ability to monitor the return to play protocols of various community sports organizations through the coming months to help inform their own strategies.

Abney said ultimately, it will be the novel coronavirus that decides the fate of school sports come September.

“A medical breakthrough or conversely, a new wave in the number of cases of the virus may change the trajectory of any plan quickly.”

Monday, U Sports and three of the four regional conferences that govern university sports in Canada announced the cancellation of national championships and competitive play for first term sports teams like football, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball.

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