The Alberta Schools Athletic Association high school football season likely won’t go ahead this fall. (File Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

High school sports won’t return to play until stage 3 of Alberta’s Relaunch

The high school sports fall season as most know it won’t happen this fall.

The Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association, which oversees high school sports in the province, made the announcement late Thursday night.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no fall sports provincial championships and no league play. Starting Sept. 1, football, golf, cross country and volleyball can hold practices, as long as their cohort is 50 athletes or less. There is no inter-school competition allowed at this point.

In the release, the ASAA said that they will wait until the Government of Alberta moves into Stage 3 of its relaunch strategy, before allowing sports to proceed.

“The ASAA Executive Committee has made the decision to postpone all ASAA fall provincial championships until the Alberta Government moves to Stage 3 and outlines the implications for inter-regional sports competition,” the release states.

“Once the (government) announces the details of Stage 3 of its relaunch strategy, the ASAA Executive Committee will consider what the implications are for inter-school athletic competition and ASAA Provincial Championship events with a focus that places safety of all participants first and foremost.”

The ASAA also noted a desire from member schools to return to play, when it is safe to do so.

In a survey released earlier this summer, they got feedback from close to 2,500 people involved in high school sports across the province. Nearly 90 per cent of coaches said they would be comfortable coaching school sport if it was deemed safe. Thirty-six per cent of those surveyed said they would like a later start and finish to seasons if there were challenges this year, while 22 per cent said condense the season and 18 per cent said cancel the season.

The ASAA also said they are willing to work with the government on workable changes to the stage 2 plan, in order to make that happened.

As it stands now, ASAA winter sports like basketball, badminton and handball, will be addressed closer to the start of their respective seasons.

They also released an 18-page guideline for a safe return to sport. Among the guidelines are specifics about spectators, participants and cohorts, in which an athlete may only be involved in one cohort and must quarantine for 14 days if they are to participate in a second one.

Teams are being asked to complete a participant tracker, to detail who is in that sport cohort. Spectators will be allowed if games do return, with cheering discouraged. Masks are also being encouraged for participants on the sidelines if they can safely physically distance.

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