August 4, 2020
SHSAA School Sport - COVID-19 Update
Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association, a multi-sport organization with defined seasons of play, has been carefully studying and resourcing information related to return to sport, school opening in the fall of 2020, and the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan. With today’s announcement of the Saskatchewan Safe School Plan, the SHSAA can now begin the formal process to plan for sport in schools during the 2020-21 school year should school divisions and schools wish to offer this extra-curricular programming.
The SHSAA Executive Council is scheduled to meet August 12, 2020 to discuss final details of a plan to safely incorporate sport into school re-opening. It is anticipated that the plan, which will outline the five fall activities, will be available following the meeting and in advance of the scheduled start for the first SHSAA season of play (Football) which is to begin August 20. Golf, Cross Country, Soccer, and Volleyball seasons of play are scheduled to begin on September 1, 2020. The safety of all is the primary focus of any return to school sport plan that continues to contribute to the development of citizenship skills in our student athletes.
There are still questions and concerns to discuss regarding school sport in Saskatchewan during the upcoming school year. School sport needs to consider the dynamics of multiple seasons of play, multisport athletes, multi-sport coaches, differences in rural and urban opportunities, and appropriate reintroduction of school sport from individualized skill development to provincial championships. Suspending, delaying, compressing, or moving a season of play will impact how effectively schools can deliver the total school sport program available to their student athletes. As conditions change and Public Health Orders are altered, the SHSAA Executive, in consultation with stakeholders, will need to make many decisions throughout the year that will impact the delivery of school sport opportunities to the students of Saskatchewan. These changes, related to the policies and activities of the Association, will come into effect immediately when passed by the Executive. The changes will be communicated to the membership and if required will be brought to the next Annual General Meeting for ratification.
In today’s announcement of the Saskatchewan Safe Schools Plan, the 7th listed safe component, Safe Activities, included the following two statements:
• Participation in extra-curricular activities will be dependent on the most current guidelines as provided by Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer.
• Extra-curricular activities such as indoor sports are allowed as announced in the second part of Phase 4 of Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan.
The Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan that is referenced includes an extensive section on Sports and Activities Guidelines. The current Public Health Orders also impact the size of group gatherings that are allowable.
In the guidelines, references are made to activities in which physical distancing can be maintained and those where it is not. In those activities where physical distancing cannot be maintained, a competitive opportunity may be available by utilizing a cohort system allowing teams to form mini-leagues. It should be noted, and emphasized, tournament play and inter-provincial competitions are not allowed. To that end, SHSAA will not be sanctioning any inter-provincial competition until such time as public health orders related to COVID-19 have been lifted by all invited jurisdictions.
In addition to the government guidelines and public health orders, sport specific guidelines for each of the fall activities will be developed, and released, by resourcing the Return to Play protocols/plans of each Provincial Sport Organization. Adaptations to the PSO protocols may occur to allow the activity to fit within the structure of a school sport setting. The following outlines the seasons of play and the PSO identified Return to Play protocols for each fall activity as currently defined by SHSAA activity policies:
• Golf (Current season of play: September 1 – 26): https://golfcanada.ca/covid-19/
• Cross Country (Current season of play: September 1 – October 17): http://www.saskathletics.ca/
• Soccer (Current season of play: September 1 – October 31): http://www.sasksoccer.com/category/915/Resources
• Football (Current season of play: August 20 – November 14): https://www.footballsaskatchewan.ca/covid-19
• Volleyball (Current season of play: September 1 – November 28): http://www.saskvolleyball.ca/covid-19/
Most school divisions have now released their Safe Return to School plans and each reference extracurricular offerings in some respect. Each school division and school may have additional strategies and guidelines that will need to be adhered to for a successful return of sport in schools. It is recognized that not all schools and/or individuals may choose to offer, or be involved in, a school sport setting during the pandemic.
Guidelines and sport specific plans for winter activities (basketball, curling, wrestling) and spring activities (badminton and track & field) will be developed and released as the school year progresses.
Executive Director, Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association