Outdoor sports in Saskatchewan can get back to playing games on May 30.
The province announced Tuesday that outdoor sporting activities — which were originally part of the Step 2 of the provincial reopening plan — will now be included in Step 1, which begins this coming Sunday.
Easing of restrictions for indoor sports remains in Step 2 of the reopening roadmap, which is expected three weeks after Step 1.
A number of sports are ready to hit the ground running.
Brian Guebert, Saskatoon Minor Football’s commissioner, said flag football games should begin by June 5 and tackle football by June 10.
“We’re going to make sure our kids get a good opportunity to practise in equipment and go through some safe contact to just hone their individual skills that they were working on without equipment, and then we’ll get into games,” Guebert said.
He said there are 2,200 kids eager to play games.
“This is just another step, you know, of just bringing a lot of happiness to kids, and to coaches, getting back on the field.”
In a news release, the province said it moved up outdoor sports because of the lower risk of transmission in outdoor settings and the successful uptake in Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccination effort.
“This really means a lot to our parents and athletes,” said Guy Jacobson, executive director of Softball Saskatchewan.
“To actually get back to playing games is huge for the physical well-being, the mental health, just everything.”
Jacobson said he anticipates about 4,500 players this season, down considerably from a normal of about 16,000 players.
He said the Regina and Saskatoon softball leagues already have schedules done and will revise those to move up the start dates to early June.
Softball Saskatchewan is also trying to clarify how this will work for rural teams who don’t play in leagues, but play exhibition games.
“I’m just looking for some clarification there regarding travel,” Jacobson said.
Beginning May 30, games for outdoor team sports like football, soccer or softball can proceed with the following requirements:
- Participants may not compete if they are feeling unwell.
- Players and coaches should be encouraged to screen for COVID-19 symptoms prior to arriving to practice and play.
- League play is allowed to resume, but tournaments are not. Tournaments may be included in Step 2.
- No interprovincial travel. Teams competing in regional interprovincial leagues need to contact the province’s business response team prior to beginning play.
- Capacity must be in compliance with the public health order for public outdoor gatherings for each playing surface or game area. Public outdoor gatherings are set to expand to a limit of 150 people on May 30.
- Equipment should not be shared. When helmets and bats or other equipment are shared, cleaning and disinfecting must occur between each use.
- Commonly touched equipment used in play, such as a ball, should be routinely replaced or disinfected.
- Coaches, officials, umpires, referees and players who are not on the field are not required to wear masks outdoors under the public health order, but may choose to do so.
- No shaking hands, high-fives, etc.
- Spectators not from the same household should maintain two metres of physical distancing.
- Spectators must remain in designated areas. Masks are not required to be worn outdoors under the public health order, but they may be.
- Hand sanitizer approved by Health Canada or soap and water hand washing stations should be available.
- No sharing of water bottles.
- Public washrooms, when available, are cleaned and disinfected regularly, and soap and water or hand sanitizer is available.
- Contact information of the coaches, officials and players should be recorded by the home team to help with contact tracing if there is later a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Doug Pederson, executive director of the Saskatchewan Soccer Association, said all of the province’s local soccer associations have plans in place, but that there is still a lot of work to be done before games can be played in early June.
“Everything will have to be double-checked,” Pederson said. “You’ve got coaches, team managers, referees and support people to make sure all your safety protocols are in place.”
Pederson said he is still looking for clarification on travel within the province and regarding tournaments.
“We actually have meetings set up … tomorrow morning where hopefully we can get answers to some of those questions.”