Cut the BS: Community sports schedule likely to be affected by COVID-19
For the first time since Perth began dealing with a rapid rise in COVID cases this year, I ventured outside on Friday night to catch a live community sport.
With most professional outfits, minus AFLW teams, still waiting to start the “home” portion of their home and away seasons, I was eager to participate in top-level sport.
Even the 1,000 new cases announced earlier today hadn’t deterred a decent-sized crowd from making the same decision as me in a corner of Perth’s eastern suburbs. Crowds packed into the grandstand, some wearing masks, others with drinks in hand, doing their best to socially distance from fellow spectators when possible.
At first glance, community sports may be a good alternative from a spectator perspective for bettors who want to get their fill of live sports without having to battle the masses at professional sports matches this year – or at least it will be. once the state government again allowed spectators at grassroots football games.
We’ve already seen fewer crowds across the country at Big Bash and A-League games this season, with people understandably hesitant to return to stadiums with the threat of COVID.
Community sport, especially the outdoor variety, should give you the freedom to distance yourself from others and the ability to enjoy live sport without feeling like you’re crammed like sardines in a can with thousands of people.
However, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the community sport, like the education system, is in for a sluggish year with more than a few teething problems as it tackles the Omicron variant.
While the governing bodies are hopeful that the seasons will go ahead with only mild disruption and minimal postponement or cancellation of games, I’m a bit less optimistic.
It’s more likely than not that at some point every team in every sport at every level, whether semi-professional, amateur or social, is going to have a breakout that will threaten to envelop most players. and coaches.
After all, we’re not talking about full-time athletes whose entire lives revolve around their weekly training schedule and their game day; those who inhabit the ranks of the local sport are characters such as Dan the Plumber, who will come into contact with other people due to the nature of his job.
Already, Football West’s men’s state league night series has featured a game lost due to an outbreak in one team’s camp.
Players should already prepare psychologically for the prospect of several midweek catch-up games throughout the season and likely last-minute cancellations as well.
Rapid antigen tests could also be added to the list of essential items players will need to buy before the start of the season.
The football club I play for already has health and safety protocols in place to take the lead and hopefully minimize the spread.
Masks must be worn in the locker room and on the sub bench, while the squad have been split into separate groups and asked to limit interactions with others.
There were also calls to keep physical interaction to a minimum, although this is easier said than done on game day, when you play a sport where physicality and clashing bodies are an integral part of the game.
I admit I don’t have access to a crystal ball and I hope that by the time we get to winter when the local soccer, football, basketball, netball, rugby and hockey seasons beat their full, WA will be on top of COVID.
Evidence from the eastern states suggests that the sharp rise in cases is followed by a slightly less steep decline and some kind of plateau, but it would be foolish to think that grassroots sports will not be affected by a one way or another.
Clubs and teams will need to be adaptable and aware of how they handle the absences that are sure to occur. for example, there must be a contingency plan if the coach tests positive within hours of a game.
Smart clubs and teams are those that already have an action plan and have informed players of their responsibilities regarding health and safety protocols.
It feels like we’re headed for a significant level of disruption but if everyone stays alert, hopefully the carnage can be limited over the course of the season.