Kim Heersink (GTYSC President) and Mike Crinson (GTYSC Vice President) were interviewed by the Grimsby Lincoln News, with regards to the impact of COVID-19 on youth sports. The interview was published on July 30th.
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Grimsby Town Youth Soccer Club is one of several sports leagues in Grimsby and Lincoln forced to cancel their season due to COVID-19. Pictured is GTYSC President Kim Heersink (left) and Vice-President Michael Crinson. - Bryan Levesque/Torstar
As Niagara continues its gradual reopening process into Stage 3, local recreation leagues in Grimsby are looking at what the future of sports means in the COVID era.
Under provincial guidelines, some team sports were once again allowed to resume play, provided they did not involve “prolonged and deliberate contact.”
The new rules mean many rec leagues across the province are once again permitted to operate, but not all have decided to do so.
Grimsby Town Youth Soccer Club made the decision last month that it would not be running a summer season this year, even with Niagara moving into Stage 3.
Vice-president Michael Crinson said given the number of hurdles the organization faced to safely operate, it became apparent the only option on the table was to cancel the season for both its house league and travel teams.
“By the time late June came around, we were beginning to get these checklists of what needed to be done. It wasn’t simply a matter of let 22 kids play a soccer game and have a referee. But it wasn’t simply a matter of just checking an item; we need volunteers to supervisor those items. And it was dozens of pages, which meant dozens more volunteers would be required in order to run a normal program.”
After making the decision to cancel the season, Crinson says Grimsby Soccer also ensured all registration fees already paid were returned for a full refund.
For a rec league like soccer, so dependent on the co-operation and decisions of other leagues across the region, Crinson said the possibility of running even an abridged season was even more challenging, despite the Stage 3 reopening.
“So, I understand that the Stage 3 is opening things up somewhat, but because you are playing a game against other towns, it all depends on what they are doing, and then to get all of that organized for a meaningful league gets very, very difficult in the short space of time that you have.”
Ultimately, the final decision came down to the safety of the athletes and youth involved.
“Our concern was that nobody feels as though they are being put in jeopardy.”
Meanwhile, other leagues have decided to operate some kind of season, whether abridged or modified.
One of those leagues is the Outdoor Ball Hockey League, which typically plays out of the Peach King Centre in Grimsby.
With the Peach King Centre still closed due to COVID-19, the league will continue play throughout the next two months at sites in Stoney Creek and Hamilton, with this season’s games already underway.
Joe Wilson, who operates the OBHL, said the decision to run a summer season came after consulting with teams, and seeing how many players would be willing to return.
“With Phase 3 kicking in and outdoor numbers being allowed to increase, we decided that we would put it out there to our customers, especially in the adult world. We wanted to know, were they comfortable? What were their concerns?”
Wilson said the league has already dropped the puck on its summer season for adults, which will run through the end of September, and will be making a decision regarding its youth league soon.
“We are giving ourselves another two or three weeks before we open the youth program just to see what other youth programs are doing, and what the federal government is saying about youth sports. It is very much an evolving plan, so as things become issues, we will address them.”
This OBHL season will see a number of changes, though. Wilson said the league has mandated hand sanitizer be used before stepping onto the rink, and gloves not to be removed during play. The traditional postgame handshake line has also been removed due to safety.
In play, rules have been modified slightly as well, with a new penalty for excessive or prolonged contact.
Even with new safety measures in place, Wilson maintains that players should still be responsible, and stay home if they aren’t feeling well.
“The most important thing I have told everyone is if you are not feeling well, or you have a pre-existing condition, then ball hockey is not for you at this point in time, and if you are not feeling well don’t come to ball hockey.”
STORY BEHIND THE STORY:With rec leagues permitted to play again under Stage 3 of reopening, reporter Bryan Levesque checked in with local organizations in Grimsby to see how COVID has impacted the world of sports.