Athletes from Kindergarten to Grade 12 are facing an uncertain future thanks to conflicting information from Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Ministry of Education regarding the ban on sports tournaments.
Henry made a commitment to lift the restrictions on youth sports on February 1, saying she was working with organizers and viaSport to make it happen. But the Ministry pushed back against that, saying it would instead review the ban weekly and adjust as needed, according to a memorandum from BC School Sports.
“Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education has decided to make no changes to their K-12 Addendum, meaning school sports tournaments are prohibited moving forward, despite club and community tournaments starting on February 1,” BC School Sports said in a tweet.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education has decided make no changes to their K-12 Addendum, meaning school sports tournaments are prohibited moving forward, despite club/community tournaments starting on Feb 1. #bced
Full Memo to Membership here: https://t.co/hx7lOB7jgQ
— BC School Sports (@BCSchoolSports) January 28, 2022
The ban on youth sports tournaments has been in place since December 18.
In response to the Ministry’s refusal, players, coaches, teachers, parents, and fans have signed a petition called “Let Our Kids Compete,” which asks the Ministry to officially lift the ban on youth sports tournaments in the province.
Since being created on January 28, the petition has already attracted over 12,000 signatures.
“While in the moment it appeared to be exciting news for all, we very quickly learned that the Ministry of Education decided to keep the addendum of K-to-12 guidelines in place without changes, meaning that all BC high school sports tournaments are still prohibited from taking place, even though Dr. Bonnie Henry said herself that this was ‘an important time of year for many different sports,’” reads the petition description.
“If community sports tournaments of all kinds can resume starting today, then there should be no reason why BC high school sports tournaments cannot resume as well.”
Petition creator Tricia Barker has two kids, one in Grade 10 and another in Grade 12, who are both heavily involved in sports.
She hopes her petition convinces the Ministry to follow the guidelines set out by Henry last month.
“We’ve all been waiting patiently, sitting on the edge of our seats … so when she announced on January 25 that she was allowing community sports tournaments to resume, and she and Adrian Dix both made statements about how it’s good for their mental health and kids need sports … we were very excited because BCAA basketball is huge in this province,” she told Daily Hive.
Youth sports tournaments can resume in BC next month https://t.co/oGLGVhgsai
— Offside (@OffsideDH) January 26, 2022
That provincial basketball tournament comes in March, and Barker’s kids were excited to prepare. But when the Ministry went against the ruling, they were let down again.
“They have been doing everything they’ve been told to do and they are being disappointed turn after turn,” she said.
“If the Ministry of Education is dragging their heels, we can’t even put together a tournament for this weekend as it is, and that’s another weekend lost.”
She has reached out to the Ministry through email and phone but hasn’t heard back.
And it’s not just basketball. Tons of other sports from wrestling to softball had events on the horizon that may or may not go ahead.
“Things need to get planned by the time spring break hits. We can’t just keep pushing these sporting events back,” said Barker.
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It’s been a challenge for her kids too.
“We’ve had it. We’ve done everything the Health Authority wanted us to do. The kids are vaccinated. All the people who are vulnerable have been protected. They have double shots. They stay away, so I don’t know who the Ministry of Education is trying to protect at this point, and they need to align with what the provincial health officer said,” said Barker.
If the reason is that it’s not safe for students to go to school during the spread of Omicron, she wants to see the data behind that before accepting it as a reasonable answer.
McKenzie Scott, Ministry of Education communications officer, declined an interview but responded to Daily Hive via email. He said he’s anticipating a meeting with the province’s K-12 steering committee to review the current guidelines on school sports tournaments sometime during the first week of February.
“We recognize the importance of sports for students and school communities. At this time, school districts are focused on ensuring all students have access to in-person learning, which is crucial to the intellectual, social, and emotional wellbeing of children,” he wrote.
“Student-athletes are able to compete in games and individual competitions, but school sports tournaments remain paused for the moment.”
McKenzie added the Ministry is working with Public Health and BC School Sports to try to keep students and staff safe and healthy during the Omicron wave.