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B.C. looking at options for kids’ sports this summer amid COVID-19

B.C. is still working on a way to allow kids to play sports in a safe way during the COVID-19 pandemic. Natasha Pace/Global News

British Columbia’s top doctor is still grappling with how to allow kids sports leagues to get up and running this summer, despite the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says work is being done to figure out how kids can follow provincial guidelines, while still getting exercise and playing together.

“I think there are ways it can be done. We need to look at how do we do it safely so that we’re not sharing water bottles, sharing food,” Dr. Henry said.

“We know how important it is to have physical exercise, particularly for young people, over the summer months and into the fall.”

READ MORE: All the free things you can do online during the coronavirus pandemic

On March 19, BC Soccer advised members and affiliated clubs to plan for no sanctioned soccer activity to occur in April. That has now been extended to May 15.

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BC Soccer, one of the largest sports organization in the province, says it has no timeline for activities to resume, and that it is waiting on decisions from appropriate health authorities.

“We have been developing various contingency plans for when restrictions may be lifted, with our members and affiliated clubs doing the same. However, having distancing restrictions is a challenge for most sports activities, including soccer,” Soccer BC Executive Director Jason Elliott said in an email.

“Like many involved in sport, we are hopeful that we will receive more information as quickly as responsible from health authorities on what may be allowed as we work towards some form of return-to-play.”

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BC Hockey is taking guidance from Hockey Canada on when on-ice team play can resume. Many hockey rinks are closed now as part of community centres.

READ MORE: International soccer might not resume until 2021 due to COVID-19: top FIFA official

Hockey Canada made the decision on March 13 to cancel all sanctioned activities until further notice.

Dr. Henry is hoping sports organizations will contribute to discussions on how sports can be played safely.

“I need the people who are involved in setting up those types of team sports to think about how we can do it in this ‘new normal’ for now, recognizing that it’s not going to be forever but it is going to be for this next season,” Dr. Henry said.

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“We need to find ways to do it that allows especially young people to get out there and to be physically active and be together.”

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ViaSport, a provincially supported organization, has been designing virtual programs to train officials and keep youth players engaged.

CEO Charlene Krepiakevich says work is being down on figuring out how to continue the benefits of sport, while removing the risks like sharing water bottles, sitting in a dugout or bench or huddling together.

“I think we are all going to have to think small in the next little while when it comes to sport this summer. We are working with our sport organizations to figure out innovative ways to deliver sports,” Krepiakevich said.

“We have examples of coaches delivering programs through online programs. We have seen videos of coaches doing drills and posting them on YouTube.”

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Layritz Little League president Ryan Graham says they are hoping there will still be baseball this year.

The Saanich-based club is also set to host the National Little League Championships with a trip to the Little League World Series on the line.

“We are still hopeful to host the 2020 Canadians this summer. As of right now we haven’t hard anything from Little League Canada. We are hoping to hear something soon,” Graham said.

“Lots of our players are doing backyard practice and play. You can probably practice 90 per cent of this sport in your backyard. I think kids are kind of going stir crazy at home right now and us being able to provide some of these activities would be key. But we are not sure how we will deal with social distancing.”

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