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Barrie Royals ready to bounce back with safe return to the court

'Safety is the No. 1 priority of the club. Not just for members of our club, our families, but the Barrie community as a whole,' says club official

Barrie Royals Basketball is moving forward as if they'll be on the court this fall.

The sporting world is carefully and slowly trying to return amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and, fortunately for the local club, they still have a little time before tryouts are normally slated to start in late-September.

"We can receive notification tomorrow that everything changes, but what we don't want to have happen is not have a concrete plan in place so all of a sudden we say, 'OK, we're going to be in the gyms say as of Sept. 25 or whatever the date may be and then not have a plan,'" Royals president Jamie Wylie told BarrieToday. "We're confident we'll be ready to go, but there's just so many moving pieces that we don't have control over.

"So, we're just trying to put a plan (together) or scenario that we may see at that point."

The Ontario Basketball Association (OBA) recently announced postponement of its competitive season until January 2021, but while the Ontario Basketball League (OBL) and any of its sanctioned competitive games have been pushed back, the OBA also provided clubs with some suggested guidelines for returning teams to the court with limited contact.

"I think the majority of our membership feels the same way I do; we want to get back to basketball in some capacity," Wylie said. "If we have to modify what we're doing in the gym, then that's what we'll do. If we have to spend the first four months with no contact and just running drills, then that's completely fine with us if those are the guidelines given to us. We just want to get the kids back in there having fun and learning the game of basketball.

"To have four months of just doing skills and drills in a gym is not the worst thing anyways," he added. "This is about development and having fun and learning the game. We'll get to the competition when we can. The important thing is to play some ball."

While the Royals are shooting to get on the court for tryouts as close as possible to their normal late-September date, nothing comes before ensuring it's done in a safe environment for everyone.

Wylie and the 11 members of the Royals board of directors have put together a Return to Play committee to start the process to put a plan together for their coaches and the club so they'll be ready if and when they're able to move forward.

"From a club perspective, we know how important it is for youth sports, not just for their physical well-being, but their mental wealth," said Wylie, who praised the support he's received from the board. "Obviously, we want to get back to where we were. We were having some amazing progress with some of our teams and we'd obviously like to continue that, but safety is the No. 1 priority of the club. Not just for members of our club, our families, but the Barrie community as a whole.

"What we're doing in a gym impacts whoever else comes in contact with that gym and the people they come in contact with. That's got to be the No. 1 concern. It would be very short sighted to be making plans to get back on the court by all means necessary because we'll be right back where we started," he said. 

There's much work ahead, especially holding tryouts. How do you have open tryouts when you have to have limited people in the gym? Wylie is hoping to receive guidance from the OBA on how to move forward with that.

"That's the big hurdle we're trying to get around right now," Wylie said.

The other big step, says the Royals president, is getting permits for the school gyms. They are still waiting to hear how the school boards are going to move forward and what they're going to be able to offer in terms of space.

"Everything is contingent on the guidelines of the OBA, which we'll have to follow as members of the OBA, and as well using predominately the public and Catholic school boards for our gyms," Wylie said. "We have to kind of wait to receive the cues from them on what we're going to be able to access."

The plan will include common-sense rules and regulations from Health Canada on physical distancing and properly sanitizing things. Coaches regular safety kids are most likely to include a healthy does of hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes.

Once they begin communication with the school board they'll also have to see what the different boards want if they are going to allow them access to the gyms, such as possibly helping custodians with the clean up and tear down.

"We're trying to take everything into consideration, but we don't want to put a formal plan in place because we know things can change tomorrow and we really want to take into consideration what our partners and our stakeholders want us to be doing in the gym," Wylie said.

The Royals are also reaching out to other basketball and volleyball clubs in the area to see what they are planning.

"I don't think there's any reason anybody should be holding anything close to the vest," he said. "The more information we can share and the more communication we can have with other sports and other clubs the better. Consistency is going to be important as well, because people are going to be unsure if they hear another club or another sport doing something completely different.

"As much as possible we'll make the right decisions for our club, but we also want to see what other clubs are doing because a lot of times we can get some great ideas and follow some examples from other people as well."

While there's a lot of unknowns and no blueprint for going through a pandemic like this, Wylie says the Royals are fortunate they've been able to follow the lead of the OBL, OBA and the provincial government.

They aim is to put a plan together that suits the club, gets everybody back to doing what they love to do and keeps everybody safe.

"I think everybody's really eager to get back to some sort of normalcy, even if it doesn't look the exact same," he said.

To get updates on the Royals return to play plans, go to www.barrieroyals.ca or follow them on Twitter at @TheBarrieRoyals.



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