By Mark Squibb | April 22, 2021
Just over a year out from the announcement of the first provincial lockdown due to COVID-19, CBS Soccer Association general manager Darrin Bent said he has high hopes for this upcoming summer season.
“We’re very hopeful for this season because this year is a lot different than last year,” said Bent. “We know the variant is here, and that is a concern, and so we have to take proper precautions to ensure the safety of our coaches, players, volunteers, and parents and families of course. But this is a different year, because we’re way further ahead at this point this year than last year, because last year we were shut down in March, and didn’t know what was to come because there was nothing put into place for protocol and so forth. All those protocols are a year old now, so we are more able to get going quicker this year then we were last year, even with the variant. So, we’re expecting, and hoping for, basically a regular season this year as we move toward May and June.”
Bent said he anticipates there will be a ‘cross-over’ period as the vaccine is expected to be made available to the general public in late May or early June, just as the summer programs are starting up.
“Last year we were able to get a shortened season in, but a good season none the less,” said Bent. “This year, we’re very hopeful that we’re going to be starting things on time.”
Some summer program registration programs have already started, with about 150 signed up as of April 9.
“All of this is happening and we’re rolling it out as if everything is going to be good to go,” said Bent.
Sports NL, the province’s governing sports body, in conjunction with the provincial health authorities, and the provincial soccer association, have laid out rules for winter soccer training. Municipalities also have rules in place regarding the use of facilities.
Bent said he is grateful the rules and regulations from the provincial bodies and the Town have been very clear and direct. He hopes the Return-to-Play document, which is expected to be released in the coming days or weeks, will allow for mixing of groups and competition against other teams. Last year, that document allowed for teams to play against other teams within their own health district. Currently, under training regulations, mingling of groups, even within the same association, is not permitted.
“So, an U17 Boys team can’t practice with an U15 Boys team, but they can practice by themselves,” said Bent. He expects the document will be flexible enough to be changed as need be.
Bent doesn’t believe the rules and regulations will affect registration numbers. The CBS club has about 1,200 players each season. It didn’t last year, he said.
“But it does affect the way we conduct ourselves,” he added. “It affects how we staff; we have to keep contact tracing, we have to limit viewings at our facilities, and in some cases, we have to restrict viewings.”
Players have been training indoors over the winter, and Bent said once outdoor play resumes it will be safer for both players and spectators, as science seems to show the virus spreads less amongst outdoor groups, and that programs will roll out on time.
That play, whether it be outside or inside, is important for players, especially given how much the pandemic restrictions and anxieties have shaped our lives over the past year.
“I cannot tell you the number of parents that I’ve heard from, especially last fall when we were able to roll out again and get going, and even this spring, and the relief that there is normalcy coming back to the lives of young people, and that they have something to do so they don’t have to think about the pandemic all the time, and intermix with their friends, and play a sport,” said Bent. “Just to get out and to have a diversion is incredibly important. And not just from parents, but from some of our older players. They’re so relieved, and thankful and hopeful that nothing will interfere with this and things keep moving forward. So, for me, its important that we keep doing what we can to allow players to take part in programs. So, that’s why we go out of our way to ensure that we implement the protocols, and we do the tracing and the things that we need to do so those players can get out on the field and enjoy themselves, and to some degree put the pandemic out of their mind.”
Bent also praised the club’s ability to quickly adapt to changing regulations if need be.
“Our club is quick to transition,” said Bent. “On February 7, when we were shut down again due to the outbreak of the variant, within three days we were back online training, and we did online training right until the day we got back and were allowed to go again. And I’m very proud of that.”
As reported earlier by The Shoreline, the association’s technical director, Andrew Murphy, was named Provincial Coach of the Year, and Bent said that was in large part due to Murphy’s ability to offer programs virtually.
“If something were to happen, we’re ready to switch back online if we have to,” said Bent. “But hopefully that never happens.”