Marc Stocco on College Baseball in British Columbia During COVID-19
Marc Stocco is a student athlete and British Columbia native that is now able to resume college baseball with his peers. Canada’s amateur sports regulatory agency, viaSport, began allowing teams to play in August with restrictions. After another surge in cases, sports was suspended and allowed to resume again in November.
Who is ViaSport?
Canada contracts with viaSport, a non-profit sports organization, to oversee all amateur sports programs. ViaSport specifically serves the province of British Columbia.
Due to the threat of COVID-19, Canada commissioned viaSport to create a plan for sports participation modeled after (and in accordance with) British Columbia’s Restart Plan. In an effort to slow and prevent the spread of the virus, the plan should allow athletes to play safely but impose strict guidelines on travel, group size, social distancing, and more.
ViaSport’s COVID-19 protocols became what are known as the RTP or return to play guidelines.
Return to Play (RTP) Guidelines
RTP guidelines in British Columbia include four phases (just like B.C.’s Restart Plan). The first phase pauses all sports play, while phase four occurs once the pandemic threat has subsided and regular recreational activities may resume, notes Marc Stocco.
Phases two and three allow players to compete with restrictions. Due to size restrictions and physical contact, some sports teams may not compete during phase two. Phase three — which viaSports announced on November 23 — allows all sports leagues to play, permitted they follow all phase three guidelines.
British Columbia’s Restart Plan
The goal of B.C.’s Restart Plan is to safely open up activities, including commerce and recreation, as the threat of COVID-19 decreases. Unfortunately, active cases decreased and then increased again into the fall. As of November, the government is allowing some aspects of society to initiate phase three as residents approach the holidays, says Marc Stocco.
A Breakdown of Phase Three Restrictions for College Baseball
As of November 23, amateur league sports are allowed to resume competition. This includes college baseball.
League decision-makers are thrilled with this development. Thankfully, baseball doesn’t present many of the close contact challenges present in other sports leagues. Players naturally maintain social distancing in most scenarios, the notable exceptions being players and umpires at the plate or fielders guarding bases with a runner.
Players must travel individually to their baseball game. Leagues are not allowed to play in other provinces or countries.
Players must wear masks at all times indoors. While outdoors, players may remove their masks while on the field, but while in practice and dugouts, players must wear their masks. When wearing masks, players must cover their nose and mouth completely.
As of the November 23 update, spectators are not allowed at baseball games. This restriction seeks to honor Restart Plan and RTP guidelines to keep group sizes to a minimum.
When at all possible, players must maintain two metres distance between them. Obviously, certain plays require close quarters between players, but this is the notable exception.
ViaSport RTP guidelines currently allow groups (or cohorts) of no more than 100 people, to include players, coaches, umpires, and support staff. That said, college baseball teams are advised to keep cohort sizes as small as possible for the safety of everyone involved.
Players exhibiting any symptoms must leave the area immediately and return home. Coaches and umpires are advised to administer verbal screenings to confirm that all participants do not display any COVID-related symptoms.
Marc Stocco on Local COVID-19 Restrictions
ViaSports reminds players and teams that cities and municipalities may have their own pandemic restrictions and guidelines. As such, college baseball leagues must honor local COVID-19 restrictions, as well as viaSports’ RTP guidelines, says Marc Stocco.
Marc Stocco is a native to British Columbia and a student athlete at the University of the Fraser Valley.