COVID-19: Unexpected vax order thwarts some youth sports programs, but most take it in stride

Lack of notification and consultation on vaccination mandate surprises some sports leaders

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Some youth sports leaders are frustrated with the province over the lack of communication about the new vaccination requirements to supervise or coach youth sports teams.


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Part of a provincial health order issued this week included a requirement that adults who “lead, supervise or assist” with a program for children or youth must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The rule applies to all youth programs, whether they take place inside or outside.

“We are discouraged by the lack of consultation and have not been provided with a timeline to meet,” said Jeff Clarke, former Vancouver Whitecap and Surrey United Soccer Coach and Operations Manager.

“We are all for safety and compliance,” Clark said, “but something like this affects children and volunteers, and as a nonprofit we are not equipped to turn as fast as a business.”

“The sudden and rapid implementation of this measure appears to be out of step with our outdoor broadcast data and with the gradual approach used with other sectors,” Vancouver Athletic Football Club President Daren Sherbot wrote in a statement.


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Meanwhile, the province said Friday that 584 new COVID-19 cases and nine additional deaths were reported Thursday. In addition, the provincial health official indefinitely extended the order for masks for indoor public spaces that was scheduled to expire on Sunday.

There are approximately 2,800 children and more than 660 volunteers involved with the Vancouver soccer club, Sherbot said, and no cases of COVID-19 transmission have been reported within the club, neither this season nor last.

In an email sent on October 28, Sherbot asked all “coaches, managers and team officials” at the club to send a confirmation of vaccination the next day so that they could continue in their current capacity.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the order is a reflection of the need to require vaccination in those settings, which are less structured than workplaces. He said he believes it is absolutely the right decision under the circumstances.


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Dix said he hopes everyone will follow the latest orders from the provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, on the supervision of youth sports. “It is not about enforcing the law or punishing anyone. It is about guaranteeing the safety of the activity ”, he said.

“It’s less risky and it makes me feel a little more comfortable,” Dale Rahim, who coaches youth soccer in the BC Coastal Soccer League, said of the new rules.

The reduction in school sports led to hundreds more kids signing up for soccer leagues, so it’s more important to know that coaches are vaccinated “because that means you have a lot more kids,” he said.

“This is where they come for something like athletics because they can’t do it in school,” Rahim said.


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For Holman Wang, who coaches youth in both soccer and hockey, the requirement to be fully vaccinated was not a problem.

“I have already uploaded my vaccination card to ePact to meet the Vancouver Minor Hockey Association’s testing requirement,” he wrote in an email. “I think the requirement is sensible.”

Cam Hope, executive director of BC Hockey, acknowledged that some people “were taken a bit off guard” by the new order, but felt it would have “little, if any, effect” on hockey in the province.

Being indoors, many stadiums in the province already had a similar rule, he said, adding that when Hockey Canada strongly recommended vaccination for all eligible, “people took it seriously.”

“Compared to all the things we were faced with last year,” Hope said, “this is not going to be the one that will keep the kids off the ice.”

With a file from Steve Ewen and The Canadian Press.

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