Orillia high school students are gearing up for a return to high school sports after missing out during the 2020-21 school year.
Twin Lakes Secondary School students began trying out for fall sports programs last week. Athletic director Jamie Bell says all sports programs that the school normally runs are a go this year.
“It’s great. Every coach is on board, the students are excited, we are ready to bring sports back,” he said.
Bell says the students are chomping at the bit to get back to sports this year despite strict protocols.
This year students will have to follow a seating plan during away-game bus trips, students will be encouraged to wear a mask during games, and they must wear a mask when on the bench or away from the game or competition.
“The kids are just happy to be back out there. We just ran a girls basketball tryout and not one of the 20 kids who were out there took their mask off ever,” Bell said.
Bell says teachers and coaches will do everything in their power to make sure students are staying as safe as possible during competitions this year.
“There will be no spectators this year for indoor sports. So, with it just being the players, coaches, and officials, there will be fewer people in there than a typical gym class,” he explained.
“There are also protocols being taken to mitigate any cross-over. So, we will only be playing one other school each week.”
Orillia Secondary School (OSS) athletic director Karmi Shami says the school is prepared to run all fall sports this year with the exception of the senior boys’ football program.
“We don’t have enough players with football experience to kind of put them into that senior position; it wouldn’t be a safe thing to do,” he said.
Shami says the school will turn its focus to building up the junior boys’ football team this fall with hopes to restart a senior boys’ team next year.
So far, there is a high interest from students to participate in post-secondary athletics this year, but numbers at OSS aren’t quite where they were from before COVID-19.
“That could be because there is still some nervousness about participating in high contact sports, maybe students are still in that wait-and-see mode, but sometimes we see players starting to filter in once the first couple of weeks go by,” he said.
Shami says students should expect to start competing in games by next week, barring any setbacks.
“Once they get going, I think things at school and in life will start to feel more normal. I think the school’s culture has had a big piece missing without sports,” he said.
“We are all excited to have something more for the students to do, that social interaction, that team comradery that they haven’t had a lot of. Playing team sports are some of the best memories that you cherish.”
Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School (PF) athletic director Fred Bosco says the school is still in the midst of trying to figure out how school sports will work in the pandemic.
“We know that we will be having indoor and outdoor games, so we are feeling lucky that way,” he said.
“We are still trying to figure out how this is going to go. We are trying to navigate through this, make it safe for the kids, safe for the coaches, and we will do the best we can to offer the kids something that allows them to be active and involved.”
Bosco says protocols and limitations from the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board are still changing by the day.
“When you are in a role where you are running activities for kids you want to make sure you are keeping them and yourself safe. There are some reservations and some caution being used from coaches right now because this is such a strange time,” he said.
Tryouts and games for PF’s outdoor sports get kicked off early next week. Indoor sports will get started during the following week.
“Our students need this, it’s just so important for them to be active again, be around friends, and have some opportunities. They’ve lost quite a bit of time here,” he said.