Nothing is for certain, but the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference is hoping their 2021-22 season will look relatively normal.
“I don’t believe we’ll look the same as we did prior to Covid, but we’re certainly hoping not to miss another complete season,” said ACAC CEO Mark Kosak. “Yet we still have to take a cautious approach.”
Kosak indicated the school presidents are playing a large role in the final decision.
“We’re in the process of building plans for next season and we’ve had a couple of meetings (with the presidents) at the beginning of March and another meeting has been set up for early April. We hope to have some sort of idea what the ACAC believes is a safe way to run next season.”
RDC Dean of School of Health Sciences Sharon Hamilton, who is working with events and community engagement coordinator Randy Stewart, in administrating the Athletic Director duties, until they fill the position, says the presidents are playing a major role.
“One thing we learned since Covid is that the presidents are more invested in making the final decisions,” she said. “Prior to Covid the ACAC was more or less on its own. Now there’s more collaboration.
“The presidents want to make sure we’re all following safe guidelines.”
The presidents know about the academic side of it and with students expected to return to the classrooms in the fall that could influence athletics.
“Being able to open up more and with in-person learning, those are positive signs but we still have to be cautious with the variants and what we hear about a possible third wave,” said Kosak.
Kosak indicated if things work out they’ll run the fall outdoor programs like soccer, cross-country running and golf.
“From what we’ve been told running the outdoor programs is safer than the indoor ones,” he said. “As for the indoor sports (hockey, volleyball and basketball) normally we don’t get going until the middle to the end of October anyway so that may play a role in where we’re at. If need be we can delay the start of the seasons until November or even January. We’ll just have to see what takes place.
“All the options are on the table.”
The worst part is the scheduling.
“It’s difficult to plan for next year without a plan,” said Stewart. “We’ll have to set up a travel schedule and book our facility. We have to put a hold on those bookings until we have a schedule which makes it tough.”
Still, everyone agrees having some sort of a season is better than none.
“If we have options of no athletics or some athletics we’ll definitely go with the second,” said Kosak, indicating they may have to change scheduling so teams won’t stay overnight.
“We may not have doubleheaders which will make it tougher in some aspects because of the distance teams have to travel. But teams can still travel on the day of a game, play and return home if it works that way. Teams may play one place on a Friday and at the other on Sunday.
“We’ll have to explore everything and nothing is ruled out. But what we have heard is that the presidents don’t want to wait as long as last year to make a decision. They want it all decided in the spring.”
The schedules will have flexibility.
“We hope to build a schedule where we can adjust if things are more positive or even if more negative.”
Kosak did say that they are heading into a transition period.
“We’re going from a year with no athletes towards what will be the new norm,” he said. “We look at this as a bridge year where there will be some adjustments made to make it work where we can go forward.”
Kosak added that student-athletes can’t be forced to take the vaccine.
“We can’t force anyone to take it,” he said. “We can encourage them and try to educate them on the value of the vaccine, but it comes down to everyone making their own choice.”
If sports go ahead the ACAC women’s hockey league will run with four teams with Keyano College accepted into the league in the future.
There’s also some interest from a community group in Lloydminster in starting a women’s program for Lakeland College.
“Nothing positive but there is interest and we’re sending them all the information,” said Kosak.
As for RDC, Hamilton is working with a group looking at filling the AD position.
“It’s a work in progress,” she said. “I’m working with a small group looking at what the position will look like down the road as changes are being made in post-secondary. Nothing concrete as of yet.”
Stewart did say that if the ACAC goes ahead next season RDC will host the women’s basketball and volleyball provincials.
“We were awarded the finals for last year and everyone who was to host a championship had the option to retain them and we went forward with that.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com