Over the past two weeks, we have examined COVID-19’s impact on sport delivery in Saskatchewan (read COVID-19’s Impact on Sport Delivery in Saskatchewan – Part 1 and Part 2 here). Five sports – Football Sask, Sask Volleyball, Golf Saskatchewan, Ringette Saskatchewan, and Saskatchewan Soccer – have shared the changes they’ve had to make to their sports and the impacts they’ve experienced as a result. Today, in Part 3, we learn the insights the sports have gained from the pandemic.
Football Sask has learned how valuable technology can be in the delivery of their sport. Coach education and provincial program delivery has become much more accessible because sessions can be delivered in the comforts of people’s homes. It equates to less restrictions because of geography and less hours in a car. Previous attendance at sessions was between 10 and 15 coaches but Football Sask has seen sessions with upwards of 75 coaches during the pandemic. They plan to make technology much more integrated into their delivery in the future.
Football Sask has also learned that non-competitive and flag football is a discipline they can optimize better in the future. The cost is low, it is easy to run, it is adaptable, and it can be done quickly. It is easy to develop a program in places where tackle football is already running. And, flag football brings new people to the game. One Regina program has 6 new teams registered in its women’s flag football league this year. So, Football Sask is looking at ways this discipline can be used to increase participation with different population segments, like adults, girls and women, and newcomers to Canada. Flag football can make football more accessible, inclusive, and diverse.
Sask Volleyball also increased its use of technology tools for communication and delivery of services. This is likely to continue in the future, especially for coach and referee development, because it was well received. Athlete development was also delivered online. Many free sport development education webinars were made available to club athletes and high performance athletes participated in online physical training. There are plans to make this a regular part of delivery in the future.
Sask Volleyball also considered its delivery model. It currently operates around big events and festivals. These festivals create excitement for the sport, help attract sponsors, and are good income generators. This method for delivery is a popular one, but Sask Volleyball is contemplating how they would evolve if pandemic regulations continue long-term. The answers about how they would pivot remain unclear, but these questions are being asked.
Golf Saskatchewan gained the insight that their sport can be a popular pastime for everyone. It’s a safe activity for a pandemic and it’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors. The sport can also be played in any time frame – 6 holes, 12, 18, all day. What Golf Saskatchewan is focused on now is retaining all of the people who tried the sport or came back to it last year. They want to keep up the momentum and invite people to play. Results show: if people play 3 times, they’re hooked. So Golf Saskatchewan wants to keep people hooked! No matter how people play, they want more people to play.
Ringette Saskatchewan was reaffirmed with how resilient their membership is. Their sport went over and beyond the requirements of the pandemic regulations. They created and implemented their own specific resources, policies and procedures because they wanted to put the safety of the participants at the forefront of every decision they made. They are proud of the efforts of their sport to adapt to the pandemic and know that if they can do this, they can handle any challenge that may lay ahead.
Ringette Saskatchewan was also reaffirmed that their sport is an inclusive community focused sport. They saw that ringette is more than a game-it is a community-which is one of their core values. They worked hard to increase connection for the betterment of their participants. This included collaboration and increased, transparent communication. This is demonstrated by their 2021 Link the Rink Virtual Provincials that ran through February and March. 14 teams competed and earned points through physical activity, giving back to their community, and attending sports medicine and science sessions. They had great results and they are confident that the values of their sport will continue to carry them through.
Soccer, too, also learned how the use of technology could be of benefit to them. Saskatchewan Soccer, in partnership with their national organization, built and began delivering coach and referee certification online. The coach and referee certification trainings have now been split into an online portion, which is free, and an in-person portion, which will be delivered in many more communities moving forward. These courses will continue to be available long term and the use of technology will continue to be part of soccer’s delivery in Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan Soccer was reaffirmed that living by its core values is important to the success of soccer in the province. The organization did its best to be innovative and adapt creatively when it was required to. It increased communication with its membership; first delivering a biweekly call, and now a monthly call, as an engagement point to share best practices. As well, it created a multi-point stimulus package to support organizations financially and through other means. The importance of delivering soccer by its values is an insight that soccer has gained as a result of the pandemic.
Times of Change
Over the past 3 weeks, I have attempted to illuminate the experiences these 5 Saskatchewan sports have had since the COVID-19 pandemic began. COVID-19’s impact on sport delivery has been large, but it hasn’t all been negative. The pandemic has shown us the best parts of sport, and it has also shown us where sport can and must change. The insights in this article offer important considerations for sport delivery moving forward.
Thank you to the following individuals for their contributions to this series: Mike Thomas, Director of Football Operations, Sask Football; Aaron Demyen, Executive Director, Sask Volleyball; Brian Lee, Executive Director, Golf Saskatchewan; Ruchelle Himmelspeck, Executive Director, Ringette Saskatchewan; and, Rahim Mohamed, Director of Soccer, Saskatchewan Soccer. I enjoyed speaking with each of you and sharing your stories.