At least one local high school sports team will take the field despite the ongoing teacher strike, as the Whistler Secondary School Storm boys' soccer squad held its first practice on Wednesday, Sept. 10.
The news comes after B.C. School Sports (BCSS), which regulates secondary school athletics in the province, announced Monday that it plans to go ahead with zone and provincial championships for sports that run during the fall season — football, volleyball, field hockey, aquatics, cross-country and boys' soccer.
In its Monday release, BCSS also noted that each school has the ability to determine if athletic activities can continue while classes are suspended.
"BCSS views extra-curricular activities, including coaching, as voluntary and will respect the decisions that teacher coaches, volunteers, schools and school districts will make on their involvement with school sports," said the release.
"It is mandatory that all teams have permission from their school and school district to participate in competition."
There are no teachers on the Storm boys' soccer team's coaching staff, which is instead comprised of volunteers from within the community, so there won't be a need for a teacher-coach to cross the picket lines.
Though Whistler Secondary usually has volleyball teams getting their seasons started in early September, too, principal Nolan Cox said the soccer squad is the only one to approach him for permission to play thus far.
"As far as right now, that's the only one we have happening," Cox said Monday.
Cox also noted that the school adheres to a policy by which community coaches may administer team activities without a staff member present, so long as the coaches are determined by administration to be capable supervisors.
"Once we get to know our community coaches, we put them through a mentorship for a year where they are supervised by a staff member, and then I will sit down with them and ask them a number of questions and scenarios to determine the suitability of the supervision," said Cox. "If I'm satisfied with that, we can allow the community coaches to then practice without a teacher supervisor, as well as attend day trips with the kids on what we would consider a low-risk trip."
Soccer team manager Angela Mellor said there are approximately 15 students interested in beginning the season before classes resume.
"They want to play," said Mellor, whose husband, Martin, and Luis Saguilan are coaching the squad. "It's a very short season — it's over on the eighth of November, and we hope to qualify to go to the provincials in Nakusp."
Pemberton Secondary School has traditionally had a strong boys' soccer team each fall, too, but principal Ryan Massey said that the Red Devils aren't yet preparing for their season.
"I think we're in a wait-and-see-position as of today," Massey said Tuesday. "I did get the message that they're allowed to play, but nobody has approached me yet.
"Hopefully (the strike) will be resolved soon and they can quickly be put on the pitch."
Massey added that any school team must have a staff member acting as a sponsor.
"What they're responsible for is making sure that the school policies are followed on the team," said Massey. "They work with the community coach to support them from the school side, and they do have to be around during all practices and games."
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