The Alberta Summer Games have been dealt another hammer blow.
Originally scheduled to be held in Lethbridge in July 2020, the Alberta Summer Games were postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, on Jan. 29, organizers of the multi-sport event announced the Games would also not take place this summer, as the virus continues to impact the province and prohibit public gatherings.
“After consultation with health officials, the City of Lethbridge and the Alberta Government, the Games Society made the decision to cancel the Games based on the health and safety of the participants, spectators, volunteers and residents of the City of Lethbridge,” read a statement from the Games Society.
“The ability to stage a safe, responsible and meaningful event was not possible.”
The Alberta Summer Games are held every second summer, and feature thousands of U15 athletes from across the province in 14 sports. Based on the Olympics, the Summer Games see Alberta's athletes compete for one of eight zones, which are based on geography.
Each Summer Games, dozens of Grade 9 athletes from Airdrie and area compete for Zone 2 (Big Country) teams in their respective sports.
Among the Airdronians disappointed by the second cancellation of the Games was Douglas Robertshaw, the head coach of the Zone 2 football team. Robertshaw, who is also the head coach of the Airdrie Raiders bantam football team and an assistant coach for the George McDougall Mustangs in the fall, said Football Alberta still intends to stage some type of competition for youth football players this summer, pending the status of COVID-19 in the province.
“They’re hoping for an eight-team tournament that is done regionally in the exact same format,” he said. “We just want to make sure we can adhere to all Football Alberta and AHS guidelines and all those things. As a coaching staff, we’re fully on board and support that decision.”
Robertshaw is no stranger to the Alberta Summer Games football tournament, having been the Zone 2 offensive coordinator at the two previous iterations of the Games. Considering the age of athletes who participate in the Alberta Summer Games, he said the event is a great bonding experience for young athletes, and also acts as a first scouting opportunity for those who intend to take their sport to a higher level.
"You can play sports beyond high school, and they start recognizing the dedication to do that," he said. "It’s a good barometer or metric for them to be able to compare themselves to other people across the province. From that aspect, it’s really great.”
According to Robertshaw, Premier Jason Kenney’s Jan. 29 announcement about easing public health orders and government restrictions based on hospitalization benchmarks was a “light at the end of the tunnel” for local athletes, many of whom continue to be not be allowed to play their sports. Kenney's announcement indicated youth sport would be allowed to resume once fewer than 150 Albertans are hospitalized with COVID-19.
“If you look at it, we’re at step one and we have to get down to step three or four,” Robertshaw said. “It’s three weeks at a time and creates a bit of a waiting game, but it’s something the football community can look at and say, ‘OK, if we can continue to do this, we can build off of it and have a little more certainty in the future of what’s possible in the meantime.’
“Obviously, there might be some hiccups or things that happen, but it makes that July timeframe to get some games going a real possibility.”