Saskatchewan

Saskatoon high school sports cancelled for the fall

High school athletes in Saskatoon will have to sit on the bench this fall. The Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate has announced the cancellation of fall sports for all high schools in the city.

Mixed emotions among athletes and coaches

Soccer, football, cross-country, and volleyball have been cancelled for all Saskatoon high schools this fall. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

High school athletes in Saskatoon will have to sit on the bench this fall.

The Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate (SSSAD) has announced the cancellation of fall sports for all high schools in the city, affecting cross-country, football, soccer and volleyball as extracurricular activities.

While indoor and outdoor sports are allowed under the province's COVID-19 guidelines, the decision was made with "the health and safety of the student athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers involved in SSSAD athletics" in mind, the sports organization said in an online post Wednesday.

"Waking up to that was ... pretty disappointing," said Sienna Quewezance, 17, who played volleyball at Bedford Road Collegiate in Grade 11 and had hoped to play again this fall.

"All seniors … look forward to playing their last year of whatever sport they are playing."

While SSSAD could not provide an exact number of how many students will be affected by the decision, football and soccer usually have large rosters.

"The fall sporting season is one of the busiest sporting seasons that we offer," said Jud Heilman, an education consultant with SSSAD.

"So it does affect a tremendous amount of students."

Loss of recruitment opportunity

The decision to call off high school sports this fall was tough, Heilman said, asking students to be patient until high school athletics can safely return.

With extracurricular sports out of the picture, some student are worried about the lack of opportunities to show their skills.

"For many athletes I think school sports provide recruitment opportunities," said Ava Wagner, who will start Grade 12 at Centennial Collegiate in Saskatoon in September.

"Lots of university coaches often come to games or tournaments."

Ava Wagner is a high school student at Centennial Collegiate. She also plays volleyball for Team Sask. (Submitted by Ava Wagner)

While Wagner still has the chance to train with Team Saskatchewan, she says missing out on a school season will be a setback for athletes working toward playing at university level. 

Sports are important for mental health, Wagner said, and provide an outlet for many athletes. 

"I feel like so much has already been taken away from us."

Necessary 'to keep people safe'

On the other side of the playing field, coaches will miss out on the opportunity to work with young local talent. Justin Loshack from Aden Bowman Collegiate has been coaching football at high schools for 20 years, so the cancellation leaves him with "mixed emotions."

"I have never gone back to school without football," said Loshack.

"But … I just feel like there is so much that we don't know that it would almost have been irresponsible for us to offer something like that at this point."

Loshack is looking forward to being back in the school building, he said, with safety being the first concern at this point.

He believes there are around 150 to 200 students involved in athletics at his school, making up close to 20 per cent of the entire student body.

Gus Vanderlinde is one of the high school players in Saskatoon who will miss out on a football season. The 16-year-old is disappointed that he can't play again this year as a wide receiver for the Marion M. Graham Collegiate team.

"But I understand that it's what we have to do to keep people safe."

School sports in the province

Heilman hopes extracurricular sports can return to school gymnasiums in the winter, depending on the school start in the fall and the COVID-19 situation in the province.

Regina Public Schools couldn't provide information yet about school sports in the Queen City this fall.

The Saskatchewan High Schools Athletics Association (SHSAA) announced in its COVID-19 update on Thursday the cancellation of the fall 2020 golf season, as well as adjusted start dates for cross-country, soccer, football, and volleyball.

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