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Game on: Sports tournaments at Tri-City schools are allowed after decision by Ministry of Education

The decision by the Ministry of Education brings school tournaments in line with community sports tournaments, which were allowed to resume on Feb. 1.
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High school teams in winter sports like basketball and wrestling can begin playing in tournaments again after a decision Thursday by the Ministry of Education.

Just in time for playoffs to begin in high school sports like basketball, it’s game on for tournaments in B.C. schools.

In a statement, the ministry of education said it will be advising school district officials today (Feb. 4) that tournament play will be allowed, as long as all school-based health and safety guidelines are in place at venues.

The statement did not address whether spectators will be allowed. They are currently banned.

The ministry said it met Thursday (Feb. 3) with representatives from BC School Sports, which governs school sports in the province, as well as the K–12 steering committee, to discuss the resumption of school tournaments that were shut down last December as cases of COVID-19 increased because of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

While youth sports tournaments were allowed to resume Feb. 1 after an update Jan. 25 of provincial public health orders, school events fall under the guidance of the Ministry of Education, which said its ban on sporting events involving more than two teams would remain in place.

League and exhibition games involving no more than two teams were still permitted, as were wrestling meets with athletes from two schools.

That led to concerns about the future of such showcase events as district championship tournaments and the provincial finals in sports like wrestling and basketball.

Wrestling provincials are scheduled for Feb. 24 to 26 at the Pacific Coliseum while the girls high school basketball provincials are set for March 2 to 5 followed by the boys tournament March 9 to 12. Both are at the Langley Events Centre.

A petition on calling for the Ministry of Education to allow school tournaments to resume collected more than 13,000 signatures.

Its organizer, Tricia Joseph, said “if community sports tournaments of all kinds can resume on Feb. 1st, there should be no reason why BC High School Sports tournaments cannot resume as well.”

Several signatories echoed that sentiment, including retired CFL receiver Marco Iannuzzi, who wrote, “I think it is absolutely preposterous to allow club basketball tournaments to happen… while not allowing our high school basketball tournament.”

Others suggested the past two years of limited sports opportunities have exacted a heavy mental and physical toll on student athletes.

“All kids deserve access to sport,” said one.

In its statement, the ministry said, “we are grateful for the extraordinary work undertaken at this time by everyone in our education system to ensure programs like sports tournaments can continue for students.”

Fraser North boys basketball playoffs begin Monday (Feb. 7) in Burnaby and New Westminster, with teams in the Coquitlam league embarking on their post-season Feb. 17.

The district tournament is scheduled for Feb. 24 to 27.