British Columbia

Soccer, lacrosse, field hockey being lined up as 1st kids sports to return to action in B.C.

Representatives from provincial sport organizations are looking at ways to safely reopen some outdoor athletic activities this summer and say kids camps could be available in select sports.

Organizations looking at ways to safely open some athletic activities this spring and summer

B.C. sports organizations are currently working on guidelines that could enable children to participate in skill-building activities in select sports while following health measures during the pandemic. (Romrodphoto/Shutterstock)

It's that time of year when the smell of freshly cut grass and longer stretches of daylight mean parks and fields are usually filled with pick-up soccer games and softball tournaments.

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, you're more likely to see people pacing the perimeter of the park a few metres apart than playing inside it.

This could be about to slowly change.

The B.C. Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) and Sport B.C. have teamed up on a new task force that is working with provincial sport organizations and health officials to come up with guidelines that could allow some athletic activities to return this spring and summer. 

Representatives from the two organizations say only outdoor sports are under consideration right now and the priority is to open up summer sport camps for kids.

Soccer, field hockey and lacrosse are the most likely to launch first and leaders from B.C. organizations representing those three sports will be at a task force meeting Tuesday.

B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said as the province begins to look at easing some of the restrictions brought in to prevent the spread of COVID-19, rules around youth sports are being examined. (Colin Butler/CBC)

"We know that sport won't be what it was," said Rebecca Tunnacliffe, CEO of the BCRPA, on The Early Edition on Tuesday. 

Tunnacliffe said the children's camps will be focused on skill building, not competitive games, and will follow a set of guidelines that will be approved by the provincial health officer and give parents the confidence their kids are safe.

"We know that we can start reinstating the outdoor recreation activities, the organized activities, as long as we observe physical distancing," said Tunnacliffe.

The goal of the task force, said Tunnacliffe, is to create these guidelines, which will need to cover how fields are accessed, how equipment is cleaned, how many supervisors will be needed and how everyone can keep their hands clean.

Rob Newman, president and CEO of Sport B.C., which represents over 60 sport organizations, said at this point indoor sports are not possible, but Sport B.C. is asking all members for a return-to-sport strategy that can be submitted to health authorities for approval when the time comes.

"The way we view traditional sport in the past is going to change," said Newman on The Early Edition. He said members will more than likely need a "hybrid approach" that combines health measures with how the games are played.

Soccer, field hockey and lacrosse have been selected for now, said Newman, because they "traditionally would not have transmission of COVID because of the equipment used in those sports."

3-phase plan

Tunnacliffe said a return to select outdoor sports is the first phase of a longer plan, with phase two being the return of indoor sports and phase three being whatever the new normal is.

"People are antsy," said Tunnacliffe, adding there is a real tension for many between wanting to be active and being fearful of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19. She said the BCRPA can help by working with the province to create guidelines and clear communication about is safe.

Newman, meanwhile, said many B.C. Sport members are working with national sports organizations to discuss approaches that could allow them to come back safely. 

In a news conference April 21, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told recreation and sports organizations that she is looking for input on how to establish rules for sports that factor in necessary health measures.

"We know that it's less risky outside than inside and we know how important it is to have physical exercise, particularly for young people," said Henry.

To hear the complete interview with Rebecca Tunnacliffe and Rob Newman on The Early Edition, tap the audio link below:

With files from The Early Edition