Last week, Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry gave the green light for minor sports to open back up.

The go-ahead is now there: though sporting organizations across the province are still waiting on the details.

One of those organizations is the Merritt Youth Soccer Association. While scrimmages and practices are currently being held within each team’s roster, games between different teams are yet to be played.

MYSA President Kelly Donaldson acknowledged that the fluidity of sports under the pandemic has left a lot up in the air.

“To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Donaldson. “We normally open registration in January for soccer, which usually starts in April. We had no idea, because things were changing so quickly, and we weren’t even confident that we were going to have a season.”

Even up to a week prior to the announcement of British Columbia’s four-step plan to re-open, MYSA officials were contemplating whether they would be able to pull off some sort of a season. Restrictions prior to the announcement called for no scrimmaging whatsoever.

“We started questioning, how are we going to pull this off? And how are we going to keep not only the kids engaged, but the coaches as well?”

MYSA, like most other youth sporting organizations, has been following the orders of Dr. Henry. However, they are paying the greatest attention to ViaSport, the governing body for all sports within British Columbia.

“We take directions from BC Soccer, which trickles down from ViaSport,” said Donaldson.”So there is a lot of moving parts. When the public health orders come out, although they are an umbrella, there is an interpretation that comes along with it.”

Step one of the BC re-opening plan, which began on May 25, allows outdoor games and practices for both adult and youth sports.  No spectators are allowed as of yet, though by June 15, when BC moves into step two, up to 50 spectators are to be allowed at outdoor games.

Though from an organizational standpoint, implementing the standards is much more than just numbers.

“What it actually means when you’re on the ground, implementing soccer programming, it’s a lot of working within those to test what is restricted and what’s not, based on those policies that are implemented.”

MYSA ended up going about one week later for their opening day this season than usual, mostly to ensure that the coaches were informed and up to speed. Each coach was given multiple resources as to how the season would play out, including a Return to Play plan, before the kids got back on the field.

As of now, the MYSA is in approximately week six or seven of play. Time is of the essence when it comes to actually playing cross-team games.

“We’ve been approved to do scrimmaging, and we’re kind of waiting on bated breath to get some games going,” said Donaldson.

Ever since the season opened, Donaldson and other MYSA executives have been confident that real games would eventually come. They are now feeling that they can start moving in that direction.

“We know that we can start playing them, but we just don’t know the restrictions that are around that. In terms of, what’s the cohort size? What does that look like? It’s that umbrella policy that trickles down into these organizations like ours. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

“It’s certainly not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. It’s something.”

Donaldson acknowledged that Merritt, like many Canadian towns, is a hockey community. What that means for the sport of soccer is that there are very eager coaches willing to teach the local youth their sport.

“You have eager coaches that want to teach, you have parents that want to be there… it’s about keeping the kids engaged, and keeping the coaches engaged, so they don’t get fatigued in the process.”

As of now, the final word from ViaSport is still being waited on, as to what exactly the rules for cross-team games will be. With the announcement of BC’s four-step plan coming over one week ago, organizations like the MYSA are hoping to hear from their governing body any day now.

“We thought we would have some direction by this point,” said Donaldson. “Obviously we are still waiting. In my opinion, since the whole COVID situation started last March, BC Soccer has been very good at communicating. So to kind of still be waiting on this, is a bit of a surprise for us. But that’s okay, I would imagine we’ll hear something this week. If we do, we’ll mobilize quickly and get kids playing.”