By Justin Seward
The Alberta School Athletic Association has been fielding a lot of questions recently about the future of school sports next year after Alberta’s Phase 2 relaunch earlier this month.
“Unless otherwise directed by the ASAA Board of Governors, all member schools must continue to follow ASAA Bylaws and Policies including, but not limited to, student eligibility, seasons of play, two team policy,” said John Paton, ASAA’s executive director. “As of June 12, the ASAA has cancelled the springi Season f Play for all four sports in season: football, volleyball, cross country running and golf meaning no in-person team practicescan occur between now and the end of June, 2020,”
The ASAA has had numerous discussions over the last three months with the Ministries of Education, Culture, Multiculturism and Status of Women, Alberta Health, of Alberta School Superintendents, the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the Alberta Association of Independent Schools and Colleges, several provincial sport organizations (PSO’s), School Sport Canada members and others.
“After Stage 2 occurred, there was some coaches who thought it would just be fine to go out and start playing sports again. We said ‘No it’s not,’” said Paton.
“There are still a lot of restrictions in place by Alberta Health Services and the Alberta government. We’ve made sure that we’re directing all coaches and athletic directors back to principals. Of course, principals need to report back to superintendents. Superintendents will ultimately call the shots in the schools.”
ASAA conducted a Return-to-Sport survey in early June of 397 member school principals, athletic directors and coaches.
There were 2,500 respondents, including 200 principals, over 300 athletic directors and over 2,000 coaching staff.
The goal of the survey was to paint a clearer understanding of those who are integrally involved in school sport and how they were feeling, and to ask them about returning to school sport and to get their preferences around how the athletes.
The key findings that were released on June 25 were 90 per cent of coaches would be comfortable returning to coaching school sport when it’s safe to so and 10 per cent said they would not be comfortable.
When asked to rate a scale from 1-100, on what impact returning to school sport would have on student learning, with one being lowest negative impact and 100 being the highest impact, the average response was 80 per cent
“This finding highlights the perception of that participation in school athletics has a positive impact on academic performance, as many studies have already shown,” said Paton
ASAA asked about those schools having modification done of its sports (ie 3-on3 basketball).
The response was that 94 per cent would not.
As for their favourable preferences, 36.5 per cent wanted to start and finish the season later, 21.9 per cent said to have a condensed season, 17.8 per cent of participants wanted cancelled seasons, 16. 3 per cent said move the seasons and 7.5 per cent wanted to modify the sport.
The responses for the least favorable preferences included 57. 7 per cent saying they wanted a cancelled season, 26.4 per cent wanted the sports modified, 8.1 per cent for a moved season, 4.6 per cent wanted a later start and finish to the season and 3.1 per cent wanted to see a condensed season.
Respondents were asked if they knew any travel restrictions, but they did not know of any yet. The principals provided more definitive responses.
“Quite pleased with the survey results,” he said.
“… I think people are very passionate about school sport and they want to see it happen and they believe it’s important for the well-being of students.”
The ASAA is also researching school sports specific documents from around the world to see how the best practices can be implemented into the Back-to-Sport guidelines within the school system.
“I would hope maybe within a month we’ll have some guidelines we can put out, which would align with the government’s plan to let Albertans know what scenario schools will be in when they go back in September,” he said.
“The Alberta Education Scenario 1 is less restrictive and the third scenario being the most restrictive.”
Paton said the challenge for ASAA is not knowing when the province will move to Stage 3 because the association is hoping to have inter-school competition at that point.
“But as long as were in Stage 2, there would be no inter-school competition. They could be intra-school competition, which means within a school building,” he said
“What may end up occurring is that if there is still no inter-school competition, what we’re hoping to see within the school (is) that the schools would within their own building run a mini-leagues of sorts.”
Paton said “It’s been an incredibly busy few months. Normally we have championships going on at this time, even though we haven’t had any. I can honestly say I’ve been busier than normally I am March through June.”
Schools have realized the reality of the situation.
“We’ve got a very understanding membership,” he said.
“ The students are disappointed, coaches are disappointed with the way things have gone down towards the end of the year. But they have to realize we didn’t have a choice.”