Montreal

Now isn't the time to demand a refund for kids' sports, organizations say

With the uncertainty around how team sports will go during the pandemic, parents may be tempted to have their kids sit this season out. Local organizations hope they reconsider.

Local sports associations and clubs are feeling the financial pinch due to the pandemic

Kids can return to Quebec's baseball diamonds as of Monday, but it's still unclear when actual games will be able to resume. (CBC)

Talk to any parent throughout this pandemic, and they'll quickly tell you how difficult things have been.

Many are juggling working at home with home-schooling their children, and with more and more traditional summer activities being ruled out, there wasn't much on the horizon for families to look forward to.

Thursday was a first glimmer of hope.

Isabelle Charest, Quebec's minister responsible for sports and leisure, smiled as she held up a Baseball Québec face mask and announced that team sports could resume as of Monday.

The sports would have to be modified, of course, to obey public health's physical-distancing guidelines, but for parents looking for something for their children, this was it.

"Maybe it's not going to be as fun watching for the parents in the stands, but for the kids, the benefits are going to be there," Charest said.

Competitive teams feeling pressure to get playing

Charest's announcement was, for the most part, welcomed by the local sports federations as a positive step. But for some, especially those that oversee soccer and baseball players at the representative level, things are not moving quickly enough.

"Tell me when the games are going to start. That's soccer," said the president of the NDG Soccer Association, Christian de Serres, in reaction to the announcement.

"All we know now is there might be some kind of modified type of game, hopefully before the end of June. Jesus. Come on. Real games when?"

Normally, competitive soccer and baseball teams start their year in April with training camps and pre-season. By mid-May, it's game on, and by June, the action is in full swing.

A shortened season isn't ideal, but the consensus is that if they can start by the first week of July, there will still be an opportunity to play a meaningful season.

That seems increasingly unlikely, as the modified June games that Charest hinted at could be as modest as inter-squad games between teammates.

The soccer season would normally have been in full swing by now. (Rebecca Martel/CBC)

So-called "real games," which pit the best against the best from around the province, could still be a long way off, if they happen this year at all.

De Serres says local organizations are feeling the pressure as some parents are demanding refunds.

He says to appease everyone, they've published a schedule of games, even though he can't say with any certainty that they're going to happen.

Sports federations feeling the pinch

Local sports associations and clubs are feeling the financial pinch.

Baseball, for example, had seen its number of registered players in the province rise each of the last 12 years. But this year, the federation's general manager, Maxime Lamarche, says the numbers have dropped dramatically.

It's already led to layoffs and there could be more difficult decisions down the road if the numbers don't pick up.

"Register to baseball as soon as possible because we gotta get going, and don't be scared of the spaces we have to put in place this summer to respect public health regulations," Lamarche said.

Most competitive players have already paid their fees because they were due before the pandemic hit, but many recreational players still haven't committed to play.

Lamarche hopes Charest's announcement will change that.

"It's going to be a season where we're going to practise, we're going to get better and after we're better we're going to play some baseball games, so register your kids and get back on the field as soon as possible."

Baseball players are generally spaced out while playing already, but modifications to the rules will still be made to follow physical-distancing guidelines. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

There may be a natural reaction from parents to hold off because they don't really know what they're getting for their money at this point.

However, Lamarche hopes that parents won't hold off or ask for refunds.

His goal is to make sure Baseball Québec can come back strong for the 2021 season while providing as much as they can for the kids who sign up to play this year too.

The summer of 2020 may not turn out to be the sports season the kids signed up for but it will be the best available option for them to get active and competitive.

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