“We can make it work”: High school sports adapting to meet COVID-19 guidelines

Charlottetown Rural High School is gearing up for a full season of spring sports. Track and field is set to begin in the next couple weeks. Alexa McClure photo.

By Alexa McClure

April 21, 2021

The game was tied 27-27 at the half.

It could go either way. 

It was the 2021 AAA Men’s basketball final in March between Charlottetown Rural High School and Bluefield High School.

The crowd was limited due to COVID-19.

Esther Hovingh saw that there were some noise-making tubes called thunder sticks near the bleachers. During halftime she handed them out to the crowd.

There was a sudden shift in energy, the crowd started cheering loudly.

Charlottetown Rural turned things around and won the game by 10 points.

At that moment, Hovingh felt like things were back to normal, but this year has been anything but normal for school sport.

Hovingh, gym teacher and athletic director at Charlottetown Rural High School remembers when the rumours started going around that the 2020 basketball season would be cut short.

“No, that can’t be possible,” she thought.

But a week later schools were shut down, and the spring athletic season was cancelled.

“We were so disappointed.”

“That’s been hard on the kids because they like to watch their friends.”

Lauren Rafuse, Grade 12 track and field athlete at Charlottetown Rural was also let down by schools closing.

Rafuse, who has been participating in track and field since Grade 3, was excited for last year’s season.

“I felt a little disappointed because track and field is the only school sport I participate in.”

By fall of 2020 schools reopened and sports were once again a possibility. But some changes had to be made, said Hovingh.

“Masks, hand sanitizer, and social distance are the key.”

During the recent basketball season, there was no jump-ball at the beginning of games. The ball was frequently sanitized, and teams were not able to shake hands after a game.

Parents get priority to watch, and students weren’t able to support each other, said Hovingh.

“That’s been hard on the kids because they like to watch their friends.”

Apart from school sports, there have been activities going on at the school to keep students involved in physical activity.

There are lunchtime intramurals, but there is a limit in capacity and students now need to sign up in advance.

But, there has still been a lot of interest in these activities, said Hovingh.

“Kids are really excited to be active and involved.”

More challenges ahead

However, the school is still facing some challenges with the new rules.

Phys Ed classes have gone from 75minutes to 45 minutes to allow time for students to change in cohorts.

The upcoming rugby season will also look a little different.

Boys and girls can usually practice together, but because of the 50-person limit that is no longer possible, said Hovingh.

“We can make it work. But there was a lot of team spirit that they drew from each other.”

But Hovingh appreciates the rules, she said.

“We’re happy to do all those things because the alternative is not really where we want to be.”

This year, high schools across P.E.I. will get a full season of spring sports including rugby, track and field, softball and badminton, something Rafuse is excited about.

Track and field begins in two weeks.

Although Rafuse feels nervous since she didn’t get to train last year, she’s thankful to have a season this year, she said.

“I’m looking forward to it.”