High school sports are yet another causality of the ongoing teachers’ strike.
Almost all sports at Smithers Secondary School have been halted during the dispute between the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government.
Cross-country running and boys and girls soccer have not begun this fall yet as teachers are not allowed to coach because of the union’s job action.
Neal Currie, a physical education teacher at the school, said he was looking forward to coaching track and field.
“It’s frustrating for me. There’s a group that I was looking forward to coaching, but now we’ll just have to wait,” he said. “It would be nice if something happened soon so that we can go back to work and back to school.”
The school’s hockey academy that normally runs from September to February is also on hold.
The third annual academy required students to sign up at the end of the last school year. The program is a school class and students can use it as a physical education or an elective credit the same way they would with any other class.
“A majority of them have paid for the upcoming year,” said Derek Holland, organizer of the hockey academy.
“When this is all figured out we’ll have to figure out some kind of pro-rated fee, depending on what the school calendar will do. The semester dates could be changed, in which we’ll have just as many weeks as the normal year would, but the longer this goes, the more likely the semester will be cut short.”
Fifty students have already registered for the class with 25 in the junior group, consisting of students in Grades 8 and 9, and 25 in the senior Grades 10-12 group.
According to Holland, they will have to take a wait and see approach with the future of the program.
“We’re hoping it will be resolved sooner or later, but at this point there’s not a lot of reason for optimism. But we’re hoping that something will get worked out and as soon as it does we’ll be on the ice the next day,” he said. “We’re ready to go once the doors are opened.”
While most sports are not up and running, some volunteer coaches are holding informal practices in the school gym or at the track in the evenings.
“We’re in the gym because the administration let us in, so that’s a good thing,” said Stuart Van Horn, a volunteer coach who has been with the same senior boys volleyball team since Grade 8.
“They’re able to open up the gym and let us practice and we will be able to do some games, I hope too. . . . We don’t even know if there will be zones this year or provincials.”
Van Horn believes many student athletes will continue sports informally on their own, but said they will lack structure and the benefits of having a coach.
For Grade 12 student Andrew Schmidt, the only upside to the strike is having more free time.
“I would really like to get into the season, it’s frustrating. I’m just really hoping the teachers’ strike ends so we can get out and play sports and get more practice time in and have a better season,” said Schmidt who normally participates in track, volleyball and rugby in the fall.
Most teachers and students agree, they just want the strike to be over.
“They’re feeling like they want to be out there, they want to get going. I think that’s the general sentiment regardless of if you’re in the hockey academy or not,” said Holland.
As for Van Horn, he said the senior boys’ volleyball teams will continue to practice until the season is cancelled.
The BCTF and the provincial government reached a tentative deal in the early hours of Tuesday morning. No details of the deal have been released. The union still needs to vote on the agreement, which will happen on Thursday, Sept. 18.