Minor sports associations in Lethbridge say they are in a holding pattern right now, keenly watching each provincial update and hoping for Alberta’s ban on youth sports to be lifted.
The Lethbridge Soccer Association (LSA) has been altering plans weekly as the easing of restrictions has yet to happen, but technical director Sam Heap says they remain hopeful that a full season can be completed.
“It’s just kind of wait and react,” Heap said. “We did it in the first lockdown where we were given about a week’s notice to get a program up and running, and that turned out to be pretty successful, so we’re kind of sticking to that same mentality right now.”
Program director Kristy Lauzon says LSA had zero soccer-related transmission of COVID-19 from July until mid-November when sports were halted, with more than 1,000 young athletes registered.
A two-week pause on team sports was announced by the province on Nov. 12, but that ban has not since been lifted. Lauzon says when it continued into December, it became clear that their March 6, 2021 season end date would need to be pushed back.
“We’ve now extended our indoor program to April 15, and that will kind of be our drop-dead date, which still allows us to have a full indoor season,” she said.
Lauzon says if they can get up and running by Feb. 1, playing until April 15 would be enough time for players and parents to get their money’s worth for allotted sessions.
But, she says, any later than a first week of February start is when timing might start to get tricky, and refunds and credits will have to be worked out.
“It’s just kind of a waiting game. Our hands are just tied by the government,” she said.
Lethbridge Minor Hockey Association (LMHA) is also considering all options while on pause.
General manager Keith Hitchcock says LMHA is prepared to play right to the end of April, nearly six weeks longer than minor hockey usually goes into the spring. He says getting started in the first week of February would get teams close to a full year, in what would essentially feel like two separate mini-seasons.
Hitchcock says talks with the City of Lethbridge have been encouraging, as LMHA looks to ensure ice will remain in rinks long enough to finish the season.
No matter the sport, the hope is to get kids playing sooner rather than later.
“It’s not only screwing up their potential futures but also we talk about the mental health side of things, we talk about the physical health side of things,” said Heap.
Alberta Health says it will continue to monitor provincial and regional trends to determine if further easing of restrictions may be considered over the coming days and weeks.