By KELLEN TANIGUCHI on May 15, 2021.
Recent COVID-19 restrictions put the Medicine Hat Minor Softball Association season on pause, but MHMSA is eyeing a return to play date of May 31.
The current season looks different for MHMSA as there is no competition. For the first three weeks of the 2021 season, athletes have been put into teams of eight with two coaches per team – ensuring the group size is no larger than 10.
“We’re ready to just hit the reset button for sure,” said Michelle Campbell, MHMSA president. “We don’t have to make any adjustments unless the government comes out with some sort of new plan, but otherwise we will be ready to just restart.”
MHMSA has 20 U4 teams with five players a team, 25 teams in the Learn to Play Division (U6, U8, U10) and about 18 teams in the U12, U14 and U19 age groups this season.
Campbell says throughout tryouts and training there has been no transmission of COVID-19 linked to MHMSA. The association’s Thunder assessments ran in March indoors and required nearly 300 volunteer hours, says Campbell.
“We just had to run small groups, so that was no more than 10 people in the building,” she said. “Then to ensure that kids had fair tryouts, they had access to more than one tryout which is really why it spread things out so long and why we needed so many volunteer hours. What’s normally done in a weekend, took a month of weekends.”
Campbell says once they were ready to start the house league process, they held assessments at the Cypress Centre Fieldhouse. They were able to rent multiple fields and ensure there were no more than 10 people on each field.
“It was a lot of traffic mitigation and sanitization and things like that but again, we ran all those kids through and again had no COVID issues. We felt really great after being able to do something so big like that indoors without any issues,” she said.
Campbell says this season has had a focus on developing the fundamentals of softball and she adds it’s important kids can return to the field on May 31.
“With so much happening with the pandemic, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture regarding youth sport. Sport has always been about more than the game, it literally helps shape the next generation,” said Campbell. “It helps kids contribute to society, to become our next leaders, our next community volunteers, our next coaches, our next officials, so it’s so important that we have May 31 come and we restart sport, not just softball but soccer, track, hardball, swimming and the whole gamut of it.”
Coaches have been running a pair of one-hour practices each week and MHMSA has partnered with instructors throughout the city, including some from the Mavericks who are helping with throwing mechanics.
Campbell says they hope to open things further and be able to have two team’s worth of athletes on a diamond sometime in June.
“Maybe we can move into scrimmaging like our B.C. and our Saskatchewan neighbours are starting to look at,” she said. “Of course, that’s where we’re hoping to go but right now, we’re just hoping to get back out on the diamond. The longer that kids are away from sport the harder it is for them.”