Youth sport advocates are “stunned” that school sports tournaments are not allowed to resume under relaxed COVID-19 restrictions allowing other youth tournaments to resume.
Under a provincial health order revised this week, sports tournaments for children and youth can resume on Tuesday, February 1.
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In a letter to member schools, Jordan Abney, executive director of BC School Sports, said the discrepancy was due to a decision by the BC Ministry of Education.
“We are amazed by this decision, as a commitment has been made this year to ensure that access to club and community sport remains equal to school sport, and that this decision is made at such a critical time in the year is disheartening for everyone involved in school sport and continues to threaten and erode the long-term health and sustainability of school sport,” he wrote.
Abney said he was told the department would review the decision week by week, but it’s unclear when the school’s guidelines might change.
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The continued restriction of youth sports tournaments sparked a petition urging the province to “let our kids compete,” which attracted around 3,500 signatures.
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The petition calls the decision particularly frustrating given that provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry acknowledged it was an “important time of year for many sports.”
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“The reasoning behind the Department of Education’s decision is unclear, making it even more frustrating for schools, coaches, athletes, parents and fans,” the petition reads.
“If community sports tournaments of all kinds can resume on Feb. 1, there should be no reason BC high school sports tournaments can’t resume as well.”
In his Friday briefing, Henry said the province recognizes the importance of sport to youth development, and “we have prioritized youth sports and activities for that reason.”
However, Henry said school sports faced unique challenges due to staffing issues, following calls from sick teachers amid wide transmission of the Omicron variant.
Henry said school districts and staff are working to determine if school tournaments are “viable at this time.”
“It’s up to the school system to try to figure out what’s the best way to manage sports and competition in school,” Henry said.
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