The return of high school sports in the fall is within reach.
As part of the provincial back-to-school plan released on Wednesday, extracurricular activities, which includes high school athletics, have been given the green light to resume.
Locally, it was welcome news for many in the high school sports community.
“There was a big void in the schools last year, not having any extracurriculars,” said Tom Annett, head coach of the senior football team at Korah. “I know I’m super excited and the kids are even more for the opportunity.”
The news came as part of an announcement from Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce on Wednesday morning.
“I wanted to provide that update to families today, especially those within the sports community and those in competitions who are looking forward to getting back to their activities both indoors and outdoors within our schools and we think this will really help restore that positive learning experience for the physical and mental health of children,” Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Wednesday.
Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore added that the decision to allow sports came after sports like basketball and hockey would not be allowed under an earlier mandate put forth by the province.
Moore said the change in decision followed feedback from public health unites and a number of sports associations.
“We think with the combination of screening, having rapid access to testing if anyone develops any symptoms, high vaccination rates in our communities and hand hygiene etc., all the basic protocols that we want to have in place to have our schools safe that it is reasonable to be able to allow basketball to continue as well as hockey,” Moore said when asked what prompted the change.
Wednesday’s announcement is a step in the right direction for the return of high school sports and Annett spoke of the excitement that built up for high school sports and other extracurricular activities around the school that were missed due to the pandemic.
“There would be excitement building up for a football game or after football season for a basketball game or a hockey game and even other extracurriculars like a school play, the extracurriculars are such a special part of our school culture and identity,” Annett said. “It just wasn’t the same without them.”
For most players, the pandemic has meant two years between games and in some cases, players lost out on their final year due to it.
“I feel especially sorry for those kids who lost out on their senior year last year,” Annett said. “We had some kids who came back for their fifth year in 2020 for school and sports was definitely a big part of that decision only to have that decision taken away from them unfortunately. We had some kids who were in Grade 12 who are now moving on who could come back for a fifth year but have already decided to move on for post-secondary or the world of work. I feel bad that they missed that, especially their senior year. That’s a special year. Talking to former players and from my own experience, what I learned and the friendships, memories, and life lessons I got from high school sports are invaluable. It saddens me that some kids are going to miss out on that. Fortunately, it’s not going to happen another year.”