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ACAC hopes to find way to hold winter sports season

ACAC hockey action at SAIT Campus Centre against the visiting Augustana Vikings.
ACAC hockey action at SAIT Campus Centre against the visiting Augustana Vikings.

Alberta colleges aren’t giving up on offering their student-athletes the chance to compete during this academic year.

Late last week, the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference voted against cancelling the winter sports season and committed to trying to find a way to hold a condensed winter season for a number of sports.

There are no guarantees, of course, but the ACAC is going to do what it can.

“Our student-athletes are telling us that any sport is better than no sport,” said ACAC CEO Mark Kosak. “They’re training, their minds are focused on wanting to play their sport and hopefully we can find a way to offer them some level of competition.

“The decision we made last Thursday was essentially to not cancel. There was a motion put forward to essentially cancel the whole year, and it was defeated. We’ve been given support by our membership, overwhelmingly, to continue to explore what’s possible.”

The ACAC has been in regular consultation with Alberta Health Services, and Kosak said that a revised set of AHS Return to Sport protocols with less restrictive guidelines were released on Oct. 15.

The ACAC Conference Council agreed to endorse the COVID-19 Planning Task Force’s recommendation to continue exploring options to conduct post-secondary athletics in the winter and spring the next day.

The new guidelines allow for more regular games, something which could make a winter season possible.

It wouldn’t be a normal season, to be clear. The ACAC has also withdrawn from all the 2021 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships, meaning the schedules for teams playing in the province could stretch into March or even April.

That could be crucial.

“What you might see in January, and I’m just projecting a possibility but it’s a strong possibility, but maybe in hockey or basketball or volleyball you’d play an opponent on a weekend and you’d play them two times, maybe in two locations, maybe in one,” Kosak said. “Then, you’d take the subsequent weekend off and you’d keep training and keep practising and then the next weekend after that, you’d play a different opponent.

“It gives a lot of gap time between opponents so if there is an outbreak we could contain it, identify where the source is and prevent spreading it.”

While the ACAC is continuing to explore options for the winter and spring seasons – soccer, cross-country running and golf have been tentatively rescheduled from fall to spring – it also reaffirmed that if any schools decide to withdraw from competition this year there will be no penalty.

Student-athletes will also not lose a year of eligibility.

“The reason why our membership was supportive is we have been consulting with the government and AHS in particular. They’ve been listening to our concerns,” Kosak said. “The Return to Sport protocols are highly restrictive, but they’re all there for the right reasons.

“AHS is not telling us to shut down sport. They’re encouraging us and helping us with ways that we can deliver sport.”

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