Students with the Rainbow District School Board will soon have the opportunity to get back in competitive action in four sports: cross-country running, boy's volleyball, golf and girl's flag football. Officials say games could begin as soon as next week. (Dana Roberts/CTV News)

After a break like nobody has ever seen before, some high school sports are set to make a return to Greater Sudbury.

Students with the Rainbow District School Board will soon have the opportunity to get back in competitive action. Officials say games could begin as soon as next week.

"(I was) jumping up and down," said David Maekla, athletic director for the school board's secondary schools. "I understand the benefit of these programs physically, mentally. I think it's fantastic that we're able to move forward in some way shape or form, understanding that the competition is going to look a lot different."

For the fall season, cross-country running, boy's volleyball, golf and girl's flag football are the four sports that have been given the go-ahead, according to provincial regulations. Maekla said he is only aware of two other jurisdictions in the province that are moving ahead with athletics.

"One of the boards reached out to the health unit and got approval for any sport activity that the provincial sport organization judged to be in return to competition status," said Maekla. "So that meant that the four sports mentioned could proceed, but other fall sports, like girls basketball and boy's football, could not proceed because they are in return-to-train status only, not in return to competition status."

Up in the air

The status of those other fall sports remains up in the air. Maekla said local officials will do everything in their power to ensure students get to play this season and will try to include it in the athletic calendar at another time, perhaps in the spring.

Those who are set to return to action should expect a new reality, said Maekla.

"Each sport has a very long list of protocols to follow and our job is to be as careful as we can to implement these protocols on the ground," said Maekla. "I'm not a doctor, but I trust the experts when they tell us it's safe to proceed if we do certain things and we have that information and we're putting it into place."

Measures that may be in place include:

• Staggered tee off times for golf

• Mask use for non-participants in flag football

• Holding games in Lasalle Sports Dome rather than James Jerome Field

• Fewer games

• No mass starts for cross-country running

While officials with Public Health Sudbury & Districts said they weren't involved with the latest decision to move ahead with these four sports, they say they have been in consultation with the school board and suggest it can be done safely, so long as proper protocols are followed.

"They have to look at potential spread between the people, so how do you minimize that risk," said Burgess Hawkins, the manager of environmental health for Public Health. "So items such as if you're dealing with, let's say volleyball, because you're transferring a ball back and forth, the ability to clean your hands part way through the game and the end of the game."

Maekla said he's confident this launch will be a success, saying it's important for those involved.

"For me it means a return to normalcy, a chance for kids to see what they've always seen in conjunction with school life; a chance to interact with teammates, with coaches on the different level outside the school day," said Maekla. "Experts will tell you that's a very important thing as part of normal, healthy development and I really believe that. I wouldn't be doing what I do now if I didn't believe that."