Ontario sporting clubs ready to return to play, uncertain how they fit into reopening
As Ontario’s stay-at-home order is lifted, minor sports organizations are planning for a return to play this summer amid uncertainty on what will be allowed.
As part of the province's roadmap to reopening, step one will allow outdoor sports, fitness and personal training at a maximum of ten people. The province has projected that could start the week of June 14.
Step two, expected at least 21 days following step one, would allow outdoor sports and leagues to resume play. The province has indicated step two would happen if 70 per cent of adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination and if 20 per cent of adults have received their second dose.
"We are still waiting for clarification," Doug Blair, executive director of North Toronto Soccer, said.
Like many youth sports organizations, registration has been extended for the summer season as organizers still wait to find out when exactly they will be allowed to resume and what restrictions may be in place.
Due to the uncertainty, the league is planning several different scenarios in which it can safely operate its summer recreation league and camps.
"We'll do whatever is necessary, we'll play in smaller groups if necessary," Blair said. "If there are any limitations, we'll have to work around them."
Late last summer, many youth sports were allowed to resume, but with many COVID-19 restrictions in place.
"Last year there were restrictions for how many people we could put on a field at a time. We were in cohorts of 50, which made it difficult to have more than two teams playing each other over and over again—those are the things we just don't know right now," Blair said.
Organizations that operate rep and travel team programs are anticipating they can start training in June and hope to have house league programs start in July.
"It would mean a lot to me because I've been playing the sport for a majority of my life," said Phillip Botelho, 12, who plays rep baseball.
His rep team managed to play just four weeks late last summer due to COVID-19 restrictions and Botelho is hoping for a longer season this year, especially after months of shutdowns and learning remotely from home.
"I love the competitive nature of it and it's also a nice way to connect with friends," he said.
Adding to the confusion, teams and leagues haven't received any set dates yet.
"We are hoping that we will start practicing in June. Baseball Ontario is not confident that will happen," Philip's father Daniel, who also coaches his rep team, said. "The government has not made it clear to Baseball Ontario what they're are going to allow to open when."
The Royal York Baseball Association cancelled its house league program in 2020 and is hoping to restart the program this summer once it receives more clarification from the province on step two and permits to operate on city fields.
"We're hoping to put some sort of program on the board for these boys and girls who haven't really played baseball in two years," said RYBA president Rob Kreklewetz. "I've got four boys and I can see them day to day just trying to mentally deal with the effective prison we're in. It's a tough slog [..] and I think sports for both boys and girls is a good outlet."
Figure skating clubs call for earlier re-opening
Figure skating clubs in Ontario are calling on the province to be allowed to resume much earlier than step 3 of the reopening plan, which the Ford government says could happen in August.
Skating clubs argue they managed to safely operate during the pandemic when lockdowns were not in place.
"Our training facility has space. We've been able to operate extremely safe protocols. When we were allowed to open, there was no transmission of COVID-19 to anybody," Dawn Drummond, a coach and board member with the North Toronto Skating Club, said.
CTV News Toronto reached out to the province for a response and clarity on the reopening plan for organized sports, but did not receive a response.