Coast athletic clubs feel weight of COVID-19 measures

For the past week, recreation facilities have closed, as have municipal fields, school district playgrounds, gymnasiums, ice rinks and basketball courts, leaving most Sunshine Coast sports clubs with little choice but to take an indefinite timeout.

“It’s just a really tough thing. I think for some of our players, the gym and the courts are a really safe place for them to be when there is chaos in their lives,” said Jan Richey, who runs the Sunshine Coast Volleyball Club (SCVC), which has been all but shuttered during the peak of its season.

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School District No. 46 has closed its facilities, as has the Sunshine Coast Regional District due to orders imposed by B.C.’s public health officer last week, leaving the volleyball club with nowhere to train.

Volleyball BC, which governs amateur volleyball in the province, also began implementing precautionary measures in early March and within days had cancelled all tournaments, including all provincial championships, scheduled for late April.

SCVC’s U18 team was booked to play the Emerald City Classic in Seattle, but won’t be travelling south, due in part to the closure of the United States-Canada border to inessential crossings.

The club’s U15 Girls team, meanwhile, had been planning to travel to Edmonton for the Club National Tournament during the May long weekend. Hope, however slim, lingers for that tournament. “Volleyball Canada hasn’t made the announcement about it, which is surprising because there are literally hundreds of teams for our age group going to Edmonton,” said Richey. A decision is expected by April 15.

The Sunshine Coast’s smaller beach volleyball club is also likely cancelling its season, said organizer Dan Tsuji. “I have a feeling there won’t be any tournaments either,” he told Coast Reporter. Instead, he said he might run “really small” private sessions. 

Another headache for SCVC, and other clubs, is registration. Players at SCVC registered in January – that money is used for uniforms, venue booking and tournament registrations, many of which take deposits. Richey expects to receive refunds for those fees, but “it’s going to be a bit of a nightmare for us,” she said. “We’ll be writing a lot of these cheques.”

But the costs are more than just monetary. “I know our coaches are really attached to our players,” Richey said. They practise up to three times a week, travel to tournaments. “We’re a small community, it’s been a real hit for them and for the kids, but it’s a bigger issue than volleyball.”

And volleyball isn’t the only sport to take a significant hit this spring.

Baseball season was supposed to start April 1, but now homeruns and pitches will be relegated to backyards. The Sunshine Coast Baseball Association (SCBA) announced it’s following BC Baseball’s order to “cease all in-person activities indefinitely,” with more updates expected in the coming weeks. In a note to members, SCBA president Andrew Appleton asked members to refrain from gathering to play games.

Refunds, however, are not being provided, “until we know more about the fate of our season,” Appleton said. “It’s still early and there is still time to play a shortened season if things turn around.” In the meantime, the club is lending out its gear for backyard practice. 

The Rod and Gun Club’s indoor range and clubhouse are closed and junior nights have been cancelled, with sessions going forward to be determined, said Allan Harding, who organizes the program.

The future of drag racing is also uncertain. The Sunshine Coast Drag Racing Association has cancelled its April 7 general meeting and will be providing updates on upcoming events as the situation unfolds.

Even outdoor watersports are unmoored. The Gibsons Paddle Club is keeping its boats out of the water, for example.

A few clubs are still putting one foot in front of the other.

While the BMO April Fools Run half marathon has been postponed until August, organizer Teresa Nightingale is encouraging runners to “look at this as an opportunity to get in some quality training and adequate rest. On the Sunshine Coast in particular, we have endless miles of roads and trails where you’re unlikely to see another person, so social distancing is not a problem.”

Another running group, Team Wolverine Athletics, was forced to postpone the first race of its trail running series, which was expected to kick off this Saturday in Pender Harbour. Randi Johnsen told Coast Reporter they “still encourage people to get out on the trails and roads and keep training.”

Runners should tell others their route before heading out, and stick to familiar and lower trails to keep pressure off search and rescue, and rather than running in groups, “solo runs are highly encouraged.”

To help people stay fit, the business is also looking at offering “virtual races,” where people are sent their bibs and medals and race in their own neighbourhoods. That route will depend on whether they are forced to cancel other races. In the meantime, “this is also a great time to work on your core and all around fitness,” said Johnsen.

And just because privately owned kickboxing clubs and gyms have closed, options for fitness haven’t. Coastline Health and Performance is offering virtual mobility classes and GM Fitness in Gibsons is running a 14-day Quarantine Challenge.

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