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'Writing's been on the wall for months': High school basketball championships cancelled

BC School Sports has officially cancelled championships for winter sports because of COVID-19 public health restrictions. Some coaches say they're not surprised.
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BC School Sports has cancelled district playoffs and provincial championships for all high school winter sports, including girls and boys basketball, wrestling, and curling.

Local high school basketball coaches say they’re not surprised BC School Sports has pulled the plug on district playoffs and provincial championships for winter sports because of ongoing COVID-19 public health restrictions.

Paul Langford said his charges on the Riverside Rapids senior girls team “knew when the season did not start, they would not have a season.”

Greg Schellenberg, head coach of the Heritage Woods Kodiaks senior boys team, said “the writing’s been on the wall for months.”

While most programs have continued to practice, Langford said the enthusiasm of the players has varied with some seniors electing to sit out altogether.

“We have made up lots of new drills and games and made the best of a crappy situation,” Langford said. “Some families are not comfortable with the training, but we get some kids out and make the best of it.”

BC School Sports, that administers varsity sports across the province, announced its decision Tuesday in a memo to school administrators and athletic directors. It also affects curling, wrestling, gymnastics as well as skiing and snowboarding.

While the organization said it’s holding out hope that some sort of inter school competition could still be held in the spring, Schellenberg said he’s not holding his breath.

“Every time I’ve tried to predict the course of this virus and the impact it would have on athletics, I’ve been wrong.”

Langford said an online challenge that encourages schools to submit their top five competitors in weekly pre-determined skills like three-point shots and free throws for a chance to win a set of new basketballs hasn’t sated the desire of his athletes to test themselves in real games.

“We have done a bit of the online stuff, but I don’t foresee us doing the stuff they are proposing,” he said, adding the girls on his team are tying to keep their workouts fun.

Schellenberg said his group would at least like the opportunity to scrimmage amongst themselves in practice.

“If they could compete against other schools, they would be elated,” he said. “But that doesn’t seem realistic at the moment.”

Schellenberg said the lost season has been especially difficult on the team’s graduating seniors.

“They would have been a force to be reckoned with this year,” he said of the Kodiaks’ potential to reach the provincials at the Langley Events Centre. “We’ve talked about the ‘what-ifs,' and unfortunately we’ll never know.”

BC School Sports said it is continuing to work with provincial ministries of health and education, as well as the BC Centre for Disease Control, to find an opportunity for some level of inter school competition in spring sports like girls soccer, rugby, track and field and ultimate.

Meanwhile, an eight-week trial season of Esports was so successful, a second eight-week season will begin Feb. 26 to give schools that missed out initially a chance to play.