Outlook on high school sports grim for 2021

With no end in sight for the coronavirus pandemic, and the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Orders still active, it appears that local high school athletes are headed toward another year of inactivity.

As mandated by the latest orders, sporting activities in the country are still banned, and compounding the progression of sports is the virtual schooling component in place by the Ministry of Education and private entities. In other words, students are not in school for face-to-face learning, much less taking part in sporting disciplines. Schools opened virtually in the government school sector, and in a number of private schools, yesterday.

There is no communication in the private school system and government school administrators are remaining silent on the matter for now. Varel Davis, president of the Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA), said she will make a statement after a general meeting on Wednesday.

Sports has been on hold in the high school sector ever since the pandemic reached The Bahamas in March of 2020. The remainder of 2020 was lost as well as the entire 2020-2021 season, which ultimately affected physical development, social interaction and the competitive spirit of young athletes, and undoubtedly hurt the chances of senior high school athletes in obtaining scholarships.

Coaches also had their stipends for after-school sports forfeited.

Given the latest surge of COVID-19 in the country, and the impending general elections, it remains unsure how high school sports will be affected this school year. The two prominent high school bodies in New Providence, the GSSSA and the Bahamas Association of Independent Secondary Schools (BAISS), are both at a standstill.

There are no meetings taking place, student-athletes are not allowed to gather for practices and training sessions, and there are no games.

Head of the Sports Unit at the Ministry of Education Evon Wisdom was unavailable for comment yesterday.

This year, not only was high school sports affected locally, but regionally as well. Both the CARIFTA track and field and aquatics championships were cancelled for a second year in a row. In 2020, high school athletes were literally pulled off the track during the Bahamas National High School Track and Field Championships at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, and the meet was cancelled, as the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in The Bahamas.

Late last school year, Davis said they submitted a plan of action to the ministry, detailing how they intended to conduct sporting disciplines in a safe environment, implement the wearing of masks and social distancing measures, installing hand sanitizing stations, and having temperature checks, but high school sports remained at a standstill and it appears that this year will be no different.

COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc in the country, and there is no timetable on when high school sports will return, if at all, this school year. Fall sports in particular appear off the table for the remainder of 2021.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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