VANCOUVER — A grassroots petition launched on-line Friday is distinguishing itself as something of a barometre for the level of frustration being felt by those opposed to Friday’s announcement by B.C.’s Ministry of Education that high school sports tournaments in this province would not be allowed to resume play on Feb. 1.
Tricia Joseph, a parent of two current B.C. high school athletes, launched a petition through the change.org website entitled ‘Let our kids compete: Lift the ban on BC High School Sports Tournaments’.
Over a two-and-a-half-hour span from 11:56 a.m. to 2:26 p.m. Saturday, the petition went from 3,251 supporters to 4,250, essentially 1,000 votes. As of this story’s posting at 3:04 p.m. Saturday, that number stood at 4,478.
By 10 p.m. Saturday, over 7,000 had signed the petition.
Joseph’s petition ends with her plea: ‘Please sign this petition to demand that the Ministry of Education follow the same guidelines set out by the Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry for community sports.’
Its platform is centred around the holistic benefit of in-school sports to the province’s student-athletes, the ticking clock of the winter tournament season which begins in just over three weeks and also requires the staging of qualification events, and a double-standard in play which allows community-based sports to begin tournament play as of Monday.
The B.C. high school wrestling championships begin Feb. 24 at the Pacific Coliseum and the Langley Events Centre will host the B.C. girls and boys basketball championships from March 2-12.
“We’re a big sports family, so this was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Joseph when the news came Friday that tournament play would continue to be suspended but heretofore revisited by the Ministry of Education on a weekly basis.
Joseph’s sons Chris and Michael each played on the Fighting Irish football team in the fall, while the brothers’ cousin Cole Cruz-Dumont, plays on the Irish basketball team, where he has been coached in part by his mom Trixie Cruz, Tricia Jospeh’s twin sister.
This is about our students that have missed so much already … If the PHO says it’s safe for community sports to proceed with tournaments, then so should the Ministry of Education! Please sign this petition https://t.co/SQWkTaLFaG— Trixie Cruz (@trixcruz) January 29, 2022
“You’re watching Canucks games with 9,000 fans, you go to the Oval and (club basketball) events are happening,” continued Jospeh, “and our kids can’t play high school sports, let alone have their parents in the stands watching from a distance? It’s ridiculous. We will wear our masks, we will show our vaccine cards. What else do you want us to do? But let them play.”
One of the longest serving coaches across all sports in B.C. high school history, Bill Disbrow, was quick to sign the petition, and when reached Saturday by phone, said he hoped its groundswell of support would provide even more clarity to the double-standard he and so many others say is in play.
“I think that a lot of people are on edge and this is the kind of thing that can turn the public sentiment against them.. if they are not going to make rational decisions,” Disbrow, the head coach of the senior boys basketball team at Vancouver’s David Thompson Secondary said of the ministry. “Why are you saying that a club can host a tournament but that a school can’t? How does that does that make any sense? That is just being politically correct, like ‘Look how careful we are.’ Well if that’s the case, then you’re sure not being careful about the same kids in another situation. What are we doing to kids? What are we losing?”
St. Thomas More Knights’ senior boys basketball coach Aaron Mitchell, was quick to appreciate the potential effect something as organic as the petition could have on that major part of the high school experience which is too often disregarded for its actual importance in the lives of students.
“I think it says a lot about how much people care about extra-curriculars, whether it’s arts or music or drama or whatever sport it is,” said Mitchell of the petition’s swelling numbers, which at times Saturday looked — while viewing its on-line counting mechanism — like an odometre on a car rolling down the highway. “I think that there is still a passion for it, and people realize the value in it… that regardless of the wins and losses in it, what it does for these young people is way more important.”
B.C. School Sports delivered the news on Friday, communicating to its membership of schools, coaches, administrators and student-athletes, both its extreme disappointment at the ruling, and its concern for the future of high school sports in the province.
“We are stunned by this decision, as there was commitment made this year to ensuring club and community sport access remained equal to school sport,” read its release in part, “and to have this decision made at such a critical time of year is disheartening for everyone involved in school sport and continues to threaten and erode at the long-term health and sustainability of school sport.”
Asked what message she hopes to get across to parents around the province with her petition, Jospeh said “Just that they advocate for their kids. Speak up, because nothing will get done if we stay silent. It’s time to allow kids to play in high school tournaments just like they are allowed to play in community sports.
“I had the great expectation of reaching 10,000 (signees) by Monday,” she added, “because I want, by Feb. 1 when community sports resumes, that B.C. high schools can align with them.”
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