A new vaccine requirement for youth sports has the local minor hockey association scrambling to ensure they have enough coaches and other volunteers to deliver youth programs.
Coaches for youth sports in B.C. will now have to be vaccinated, along with other adult volunteers involved in youth sports, such as timekeepers and scorekeepers, as part of a new mandate that was quietly included in the Oct. 25 public health order.
The province is expected to provide further details on the change next Tuesday, Nov. 2. However, it is already having a significant effect on games scheduled for the U11 teams at the North Thompson Sportplex on Saturday, Oct. 30, with the minor hockey association, parents and the community rushing to fill the spots of those who aren’t fully vaccinated — with just days before the youth are slated to play.
“It hit us with no warning,” said Dan Von Hollen, who coaches a U11 and U15 team in Clearwater. “We’re gonna find volunteers, but we’re scrambling right now.”
Von Hollen said he’s frustrated with the new requirements, and especially the effect it will have on youth in the Valley, noting up to 50 per cent of the volunteers in the Clearwater and District Minor Hockey Association fall into the category of not being fully vaccinated, including himself.
Von Hollen, who has been coaching for over a decade and has three boys who each play on one of the teams, said not only is he not allowed to coach Saturday but he can’t even watch his son play with the U11 team because he isn’t yet eligible for his second dose.
Other regular volunteers who support minor hockey are in the same boat, either because they don’t yet have their second shot, or they feel uncomfortable getting the vaccine. A number of the minor hockey association’s executive members, coaches and volunteers have stepped away due to the mandate, he added, leaving the ones who are left to take on extra roles.
“Our organization is 100 per cent dependent on volunteers,” Von Hollen said. “Now they’re putting the squeeze on volunteers for no apparent reason.”
Von Hollen said he will get his second dose as soon as possible so he can support his two teams in Lillooet next weekend. But he added the decision to mandate vaccines in youth sports will ultimately hurt the people the government may be trying to protect — the youth.
In a letter written to minor hockey parents in response to the mandate, CDMHA president Elijah Wicks assures that there will be no changes to the hockey schedule. While he confirms that some have stepped away, the executive “is dedicated and commited to keeping minor hockey going for all kids in our community” regardless of how parents feel about the new mandate.
“We will grow, learn and make adjustments as necessary to keep hockey going for all the kids,” the letter from Wicks reads. “What we would like to ask of you as parents, is for everyone to maintain a positive mindset and to remember that this is not about just us or our kids, this is bigger than that. It is about all the kids in our community.”
B.C. health minister Adrian Dix said on Thursday (Oct. 28) that the order was designed to protect children who participate in organized programs.
“This isn’t about enforcement or punishing anyone, it’s about ensuring the safety of the activity, and that’s why the provincial health officer has taken this decision,” he said.
Roger Mayer, parks and facilities manager for the District of Clearwater, told the Times the games planned for the weekend are still a go at this time. Volunteers who have been double-vaccinated will be at the door checking proof of vaccination of spectators upon entry. He stressed that the vaccination requirement does not include youth or children.