REGINA -- There will likely be no return to play before the end of March for sports organizations in Saskatchewan.

On Jan. 13, Ken Dueck from the Provincial Government’s Business Response Team held a virtual call with all provincial sport governing bodies. Dueck announced there would be no consideration of return to play (games) for at least four weeks. 

He also gave the impression that the likelihood of things changing before the end of March is bleak, given the increase of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan.  There are over 65 provincial sport bodies in Saskatchewan under the SaskSport umbrella, including Skate Canada Saskatchewan.

“It’s been a challenge on several levels of trying to understand the guidelines and try to figure out how can you run your program within those guidelines,” said Danielle Shaw, executive director of Skate Canada Saskatchewan. “Having to wait [for restriction announcements] was like, you’re planning and you still didn’t know whether you could go, right? So a decision had to be made.”

Doug Pederson, executive director of SaskSoccer, echoed the same thoughts.

“It was disappointing to hear that game action is not likely to be possible in the next couple of months, but we really appreciated the business response team giving us some advance notice,” said Pederson. “When major changes were announced with little forewarning, it’s really difficult to be effective in our planning, we’re basically sitting in wait and see mode every week.”

Both sports bodies agree that honest clarity from the Business Response Team allows them to plan farther ahead and cancel any plans for championships or competitions with ample warning. 

“We’ve been living week to week since mid March and this was really the first time we had any advance knowledge on what we might expect,” Pederson said. 

The province put a pause on team sports – including games and practices – for the second time in November because of a surge in COVID-19 infections. 

Athletes under 18 can continue to train, but only in groups of eight or fewer. There must be at least three metres of distance between participants. Coaches and trainers are not counted, as long as they are wearing masks.

High performance athletes over the age of 18 still cannot train with a coach or in a group in Saskatchewan. A handful are preparing for major sporting events, like the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – which are scheduled to take place in July 2021 – however, the provincial government has not made any exemptions to allow this group to practice.