Limited school and minor sport training will now be allowed under step one of Alberta’s four-step reopening phases, the province announced on Saturday.

The changes allow children and youth to participate in lessons, practices, and conditioning activities for both indoor and outdoor team-based sports.

The revised public health measures take effect Feb. 8 are as follows:

  • Participants must be 18 years old or younger, excluding coaches or trainers.
  • A maximum of 10 individuals, including all coaches, trainers and participants, can participate.
  • All participants must maintain physical distancing from each other at all times.
  • Masked musk be worn at all times, except when engaged in the physical activity.
  • Limited access to change rooms

"Changes were made based on feedback we received about the challenges of one-on-one training for some sports and activities among young people,” said Tom McMillan, spokesperson for Alberta Health.

"This is intended to provide the opportunity for a team to supplement one-on-one training with team-based training in a safe and responsible way."

HOCKEY SCRAMBLES TO RE-BOOK ICE TIME

The announcement comes just days after most Alberta minor hockey associations called off the 2020-21 season, as only school-related spots were initially included in step one of reopening.

Hockey Calgary tweeted Saturday morning that it was caught off-guard by the change.

“This is something we have been advocating for, it does provide some challenges but with each challenge comes an opportunity,” said Kevin Kobelka with Hockey Calgary, in a statement to CTV News.

It continued, “we will take the next day or two to reassess, understand the new restrictions and make a plan moving forward."

"We will move as quickly as we can in concert with Hockey Alberta, our member associations, and the arena facilities in the Calgary area to develop a plan of action to meet the needs of the hockey community."

Hockey Edmonton officials said they are acting quickly to book ice time and organize some practise sessions.

“In the grand scheme of things this is a positive step. There is frustration to a degree granted, but more than anything we are excited to get the kids back on the ice,” said Steve Hogle, general manager for the minor league in the capital city.

Hockey Alberta also provided a statement to CTV News to say it is reviewing what is now allowed and will update our Members as soon as possible.

The City of Calgary and Hockey Calgary have confirmed they are communicating about recreation facilities but there are no plans to announce at this time.

One hundred and seventy employees across Calgary’s city-owned recreation centres were temporarily laid off in December as public health restrictions forced the facilities to close.

Jarret Hoebers, regional manager for the department says reopening remains uncertain.

Some Calgary Hockey families have mixed feelings about the latest easing of restrictions.

“Its definitely a lot of frustration and if I’m being honest it feels really sneaky that the government does it on a Saturday,” said Megan Bassett, whose 10-year-old son plays for a recreational hockey league.

Zachary Bassett also attests to the challenges of playing sports since the pandemic began last spring.

“I just didn’t feel like I really wanted to do team sports anymore just because of (COVID-19).”

Bassett says she is waiting to hear from her particular organization about the next steps, and that any physical activity outside the home would be a welcome change.

OTHER SPORTS FACILITIES GEAR UP

The Tennis Academy has rearranged more than 800 private lessons for youth members that can now accommodate groups.

Kerrigan Spiers, 14, says she and her friends are eager to resume playing.

“I’m online school now so really my only human interaction (would be) tennis,” she said.

“We are very excited and a little frustrated, we spent a lot of time reprogramming for all the privates and now we are going to nix all of that but we are excited to have all the kids back,” said Ralph McNiven, director of tennis.

Organizers say they are rehiring coaching staff, and hope to see a return to adult tennis players on the court.

“It’s a little confusing for us, having a coach on one side of the net with a student on the other side, not much of a difference between having two people play singles, but we are dependent on what we are allowed to do based on the rules provided,” said McNiven.

Gymnastics and dance group classes are included, and some dance leaders are eager to resume classes.

“They’re learning to communicate, cooperate, be involved in something that they believe in, it balances them out as far as physical and mental wellness goes,” said Erika Serbu, owner of Absolute Dance.

PROVINCIAL GUIDELINES

The reopening plan is set in stages and the province has already announced step one of the reopening phase which comes into effect on Monday.

Alberta Health says step two will be made at least three weeks later, and only if there are 450 or fewer hospitalizations.

"Alberta’s government will gradually ease restrictions based on hospitalization benchmarks. We recognize that these measures are challenging and working hard to keep Albertans informed,” said McMillan.

The same re-evaluation period will be used for all subsequent steps in the reopening plan.