Hometown Heroes: Celebrating the Special People who Drive our Local Sports Community
By City of Ottawa Sports Commissioner Mathieu Fleury
The past two years have been anything but ordinary. COVID-19 pandemic changed the world.
It shook communities, and it challenged us to live differently. Act differently. And to react differently. Everything changed.
The one thing that did not change – instead, it became stronger – was the desire for sport.
To train. To compete. To laugh and to be a part of a team.
As Sports Commissioner, it was important to me to help the sport community find a way back to play. It wasn’t easy. So many sports are close contact by nature.
Part of the joy is the love, sweat and tears we leave on the pitch, the ice, the courts, the field or in the pool.
The sport community continued to be engaged throughout the pandemic. With the roadmap for a safe return to play from the Ottawa Sport Council, it was clear that every sport was impacted and had its own journey to support its athletes.
From sports that could continue outdoors safely, to others that had to figure out how to return indoors, while team sports faced an uphill battle to find a safe return to play.
Many local sports clubs have had to minimize operations due to restrictions and limited access to the field of play.
However, many volunteer-led local clubs had an ability to pivot that was beyond remarkable. As Ottawa’s vaccination numbers strengthened, many sports returned to regular practice over the summer of 2021. As we grow closer to a version of what we understand as the new normal, there remain limits.
With COVID restrictions still in place with all four school Boards, it’s become nearly impossible for basketball players and other indoor sports to practice the sport they love since March 2020.
Sports such as basketball that rely on school gymnasiums for their programs’ viability have had real struggles to continue supporting youth practice and gameplay. In contrast, the Toronto District School Board has already reopened schools for community use on weekends.
Many experts are concerned about the long-term impact of the COVID pandemic on participation in sport and we need to work with school boards to ensure that a return to basketball and other indoor sports is done safely, but also as soon as possible.
Ultimately, the sports community has demonstrated resiliency throughout the pandemic, and local clubs will be there to support athletes and teams as we navigate through the end of the pandemic.
OUTLOOK BEYOND COVID
With its four seasons and large geographic landscape, the City of Ottawa provides a unique play area for sports. However, Ottawa’s sports community is looking for investments in sports facilities to modernize, meet growth and improve access.
Targeted investments and the development of a recreation and sports facility plan can help shape the future of Ottawa as a sport-friendly city. We need to work together to ensure facilities in Ottawa meet the needs and aspirations of residents, local athletes, and clubs.
We have a lot to look forward to in 2022 – including a number of confirmed events to attend:
- Canadian Tire National Skating Championships
- Bingham Cup
- CP Women’s Open
- Canadian Cross Country Championships
- Ontario Basketball Championships – U12 Girls, U14 Boys & U16 Girls
- Volleyball Canada 14U National Championships
- CEBL Championship Weekend
Sport is a community asset in Ottawa, and there are stories of character, strength and people who make a difference through the power of sport. It can elevate our growth, create a stronger mindset, and encourage healthy, vibrant, and engaged residents.
I look forward to seeing where 2022 takes us. Without a doubt, the sports community will continue to rise from any battle, a little bruised maybe, but fierce and more resilient than ever.