Sports Islanders can play now that COVID-19 restrictions are loosening

COVID-19 has changed the way many sports are played on P.E.I. — to comply with public health guidelines — but for some sports, physical distancing is already a big part of the game.

Paintball, disc golf, tennis all allow for physical distancing

The number of disc golf players has jumped since COVID-19 hit the Island, says Disc Golf P.E.I. (Submitted by Ben Smith)

As recreational sports get into full swing across the Island, players will have to follow a lot of new rules.

COVID-19 has changed the way many sports are played on P.E.I. — to comply with public health guidelines — but for some sports, physical distancing is already a big part of the game.

Jacob Smith with Disc Golf P.E.I. says the sport can be played in small groups and a full round can be played without getting close to other players. He said since COVID-19 hit P.E.I., there's been an uptake in people tossing discs.

"I find over the last few months especially that every day that we go out to one of the courses there are a ton of people there," he said, adding there are some people he knows but often he sees new faces.

"Probably last year we were looking at about 200 consistent players. This year I would say that is more closer to 350-400. In terms of beginners I would say ... I don't even know if I could put a percentage to it — but there are a lot of beginners out there."

Jacob Smith with Disc Golf P.E.I. takes aim at the disc golf course in Cornwall. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

Smith said there is a huge mix of age groups getting interested in disc golf.

"You'll see players anywhere from 10 years old to 60-plus years old that are out on the course," he said.

As for keeping equipment clean, Smith said it isn't a big issue. Often players take their own discs to courses and they are easy to sanitize and wipe down. He said disc golf courses on P.E.I. are also taking precautions for rented equipment.

"They have a procedure where they come in a couple times throughout the day and they clean the discs that can be rented out. And then whenever you are done there is a basket for the used," he said, adding hand sanitizer is also readily available.

Smith said there is a disc golf tournament this weekend at Huck It Disc Golf Course in Middleton, P.E.I., near Kinkora, called the Physically Distant Doubles Tournament.

'We have rules of engagement basically where you are not supposed to be any closer to eight to 10 feet from a person when you are playing,' says Dean Johnstone, owner of Crossfire Adventure Paintball. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

Other sports — such as paintball — also allow players to keep their distance. Players already wear masks and gloves and the owner of Crossfire Adventure Paintball in Cavendish said he's taking extra precautions, such as sanitizing the masks he rents out.

"We not only sanitize it with a hospital-grade sanitizer, spray and wipe twice actually, then we have a UV light wand that basically goes over 10 to 15 seconds," said owner Dean Johnstone.

"And just as an added precaution to really make sure, we put the mask totally away for a minimum of 72 hours."

Johnstone said he double sanitizes paintball guns as well, and adds that physical distancing has always been a part of paintball.

"We have rules of engagement basically where you are not supposed to be any closer to eight to 10 feet from a person when you are playing anyway … especially if you are shooting."

Sean Cordeiro does some paintball target practice at Crossfire Adventure Paintball in Cavendish. (Shane Hennessy/CBC)

However, Johnstone said when some teams come off the field and are excited they sometimes have to be reminded to keep their distance.

Tennis P.E.I. said it is another good sport for distancing and courts are busy as well.

"Tennis is one of the great sports to be playing during COVID because there is a fair bit of distance between people," said Brian Hall, executive director of Tennis P.E.I. 

"It's one of the safest sports you can probably do. You are about 80 feet away from each other for a general game of singles. It works well."

Hall said the only shared equipment in the game is the ball, but there are ways people can avoid sharing.

"There are some basics where you only pick up the balls that are marked with your name, let's say, and you serve those," Hall said.

"The ones that have your opponent's name on it you would just send down, you wouldn't pick it up with your hand, but you'd send it down to the other end and those are the ones they can handle themselves."

Some courts, like the ones in Victoria Park in Charlottetown, have a sign up board to avoid drawing crowds, Hall said.

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office has given the OK for solo sports, and some team sports like baseball and volleyball are also allowed with modifications, such as sanitizing shared equipment.

However, full contact sports like rugby are still not permitted.

The Chief Public Health Office said if people are unsure what a sports risk level is they can call the office for an assessment.

More from CBC P.E.I.


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