OLDS – Forget the cancellation of the CFL this season.
Peewee-level squads from Olds and Innisfail are stepping up to fill the void with a five-game gridiron exhibition season.
As the new minor nine-man football season will be played during the COVID-19 pandemic there is a set of strict Return to Play guidelines, which can be accessed on the Football Alberta website.
The first game between the Innisfail Cyclones and Olds Huskies, both members of the Central PeeWee Football League, for peewee players between the ages of 10 and 12 is set for 10 a.m. on Sept. 12 at the Olds’ Normie Kwong Park.
Dennis Yurchevich, the head coach and media and fundraiser director for the Huskies, said amateur sports for young kids is “incredibly” important for their physical, social and mental well being, especially in today’s COVID world.
“Between Football Alberta and Alberta Health Services, and the incredible amount of work both our associations, and what we (coaches) have put in, I feel this is going to be a very fantastic season,” said Yurchevich. “There is really no championship being played this year. It’s just going to be for fun. There is a lot of heart and a lot of drive in these kids.
“Most of them haven’t had any sports of any kind since our season ended in November last year,” he said, adding his team has held practices since Aug. 6 and all players received full equipment by Aug. 20.
Dallas Haldorson, head coach of the Cyclones and president of the Innisfail Minor Football Association, said the peewee team is the only one from the association that will play this season. Older bantam players will play with an Olds team this year, while the young atoms will have to wait until next season.
He said peewee players had their first light practices last week and will get fitted with equipment on Aug. 25, and practise fully equipped later in the week.
Haldorson said he’s confident the COVID guidelines that are being put in place will allow for a safe environment for the kids to play, and adults to coach and monitor the game.
“I think it’s really positive as it gets players back onto the field and being active,” said Haldorson. “We have to follow strict rules in sanitizing all the players’ equipment before and after practices. We practice social distancing as coaches.”
However, he added the COVID rules will have a huge impact for spectators.
“They won’t be allowed anywhere near the field,” said Haldorson.
The COVID guidelines released by Football Alberta state there can’t be more than 50 people involved in team activities. Those allowed include players, coaches, trainers, equipment managers and general managers. If the game officials can maintain the six-foot social distance guideline they won’t be considered part of the 50-people rule, noted Yurchevich.
“We have gone over and above Football Alberta and AHS guidelines to ensure 100 per cent safety for the children and we have 100 per cent from the parents and 100 per cent from the community,” said Yurchevich, adding the COVID guidelines were explained to parents earlier this month
“Everybody is just happy and excited that we have sports starting up again.”
As for the no-spectator rule Yurchevich said that decision his firm at this time but the team is now looking at the ability of parents watching the games from their vehicles in the parking lot directly east of the football field.
It may not be the best of circumstances for football fans but with the CFL closed down this season, minor football players have the opportunity to shine brighter.
“The feedback I am getting from parents is that they are very excited to get the kids outside and active rather than staying in the house and playing video games,” said Haldorson. “The kids are really excited about playing again.”
For more information on the Innisfail football program citizens can contact Haldorson at 403-559-8316. For the Olds program citizens can call Yurchevich at 403-559-4242.