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Ball on hold; soccer cancelled this year

Increased COVID numbers impact minor sports
20210326 AMBA_SUB_WEB
It was a hard decision but there will be no youth soccer in Athabasca this year, and baseball is on hold again until at least May 25. (L-R) Ty Bowzaylo, Sam Robinson and Kesler Cummings toss the ball around after a recent practice.

ATHABASCA — Usually with sports when there is a slump, it just takes more practice to break out of it, but when the slump is forced on you by a pandemic, it can be frustrating. 

In Athabasca there will be no soccer this year, and as for baseball, they practiced as much as they could until May 9 and won't start again until restrictions are lifted again, hopefully after the May long weekend.

“We are shut down until … May 25,” said Athabasca Minor Ball Association vice president Sam Bowzaylo. "And then just kind of play it by ear and see what happens — if that day gets pushed back or if there's different restrictions in — but we hope to be back up and running.” 

The biggest challenge has been the revolving door of restrictions he said. 

“We have had a few kids withdraw already with it starting and stopping and starting and stopping, which is understandable. It's hard to commit to something when it's out of your control when it starts and when it stops. It's understandable,” said Bowzaylo. “It does make it hard; you can't get into a routine or anything.” 

There were enough young ball players for six teams this year, but finding coaches continues to be an issue.

“There's the U11 team going, the U13 Boys and U15 AA Boys and then we've also got U12 Girls and U14 Girls,” he said. “And then we also have enough kids for Rally Cap but we can't find a coach so, they haven't been able to start.” 

Bowzaylo admitted it’s frustrating to hear medical professionals say people need to be out in the fresh air then sports get cancelled once again. 

For soccer, Athabasca Soccer Association president Glenda Gray said it was a combination of things that led to the decision to shutter the season. 

“We were so optimistic. At the AGM we talked about registration and did a bit of advertising and ... then things changed so quick there in a few weeks that it just became too tough,” she said. “Actually, we had our executive meeting (and) two of our regular coaches said, ‘I'm sorry I can't risk being a close contact. I'm at home right now and by the time I get out I'll be 30 days in isolation, I can't coach and risk it again.' The timing was tough.” 

And soccer needs more coaches than other sports, Gray noted. 

“Most sports you need one coach for nine kids and (with) soccer regulations you have to have two coaches for eight kids so it just became way too difficult to try to get enough coaches,” she said. “We needed to have our numbers in right at the end of spring break when the town was in total breakout mode so we were like ‘you know what, we are just going to pull the plug.'"

Gray added it wasn’t just about local sports decisions had to be made, there were personal events as well, saying last year no one knew the world would be in a pandemic this long, but hopes soon everything can start opening up again. 

“I just actually cancelled a registration for a marathon I was supposed to do this summer because I was supposed to do it last year and they postponed to this year,” said Gray. “You know, you're so optimistic; it's a year away.” 

Heather Stocking

About the Author: Heather Stocking

Heather Stocking a reporter at the Athabasca Advocate, a weekly paper in Northern Alberta. Heather covers all aspects of the news in and around Athabasca and Boyle as well as other small communities.
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