Athletics Left Behind In A Time Of Crisis

By Ben Hamill - January 15 2022

Athletics Left Behind In A Time Of CrisisOntario university students are left drawing the shortest straw because of lockdown restrictions in the province. This is clear proof again of what we’ve realised over the better part of the last two years: that navigating our way back to a sense of normalcy remains an uphill battle.

The latest health and safety protocols have seen Ontario residents lose the ability to enjoy indoor dining, get together in groups of more than five people, and even access to physical fitness because of the closure of gyms and indoor training facilities.

Adding insult to injury is the dynamic nature of the situation, with regulations and policies changing all the time.

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Elite Only Meant For Some

On January 3, Ontario’s provincial Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries announced to the province’s universities and colleges that their respective athletics programs aren’t considered to have “elite amateur” status. As such, they were forced to stop their training programs and event schedules with immediate effect.

According to the provisions of the so-called Return to Play policy, which first saw the light in 2020, only seven leagues are considered elite amateur. They are the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association, the Ontario Hockey League, the Elite Basketball League of Ontario (U18), Women’s Field Lacrosse, League 1, Junior A, and Provincial Women’s Hockey League.

And not unlike what happened in 2020, they are the only leagues permitted to continue with training and games.

While the decision to limit get-togethers even in the field of athletics seems at first a sensible in terms of the protection of the health and safety of university and college students, the clear exclusion of Ontario University Athletics and members of the Ontario Colleges Athletics Association seems unfair.

And the reasons behind the decision, vague.

Learning Before Sport

According to an email response sent to a prominent online sports news page by Alexandra Adamo, press secretary to Premier Doug Ford, the decision was taken upon advice from Dr. Kieran Moore, who is Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

And while Adamo wrote how decision had been made to “keep people safe”, she still felt completely short of answering the question at hand: why the particular exclusion?

The answer seems to lie with the how Canadian university and college sport continue to be modelled after Britain’s academics-first approach to learning and sport. The only problem with this approach is that the idea doesn’t always seem to match reality, explains sports sociologist Dr. Cheryl Macdonald.

And in a time of crisis, this gap becomes a canyon that becomes nearly impossible to close or even just cross.