A common theme emerged from interviews with representatives from several local sports organizations — the pandemic offered opportunity to become more meaningfully acquainted with membership.
“What do our members actually desire?” said Ciaran McMahon, technical director for the Kamloops Youth Soccer Association. “What kind of programming best supports their needs and desires as families? What changes might they be open to? What aspects of our community, select or academy programs do they truly value?
“It allowed us to explore those areas and garner a lot of feedback from our members.”
Feedback is leading to change. For example, the KYSA is altering the schedule for its select program.
Cam Rubel, chair of the board for the Kamloops Minor Hockey Association, said days were spent brainstorming.
“We were one of the first associations in B.C. to come out with a return-to-play plan,” Rubel said. “That was a substantial achievement for our staff.
“Ensuring our focus is on our membership is probably the key thing we learned. Everybody has different needs.”
Stacey Matkowski took over the presidency of the Kamloops Minor Baseball Association in September, replacing outgoing president Chris Balison.
“The main thing is how capable we are of changing and adapting our programming and how understanding the families are in supporting whatever changes we are making,” Matkowski said.
“All of our programming, we’ve had to reimagine it. Some of it, we’re restarting.”
Most of the feedback heading into the 2021 spring season seems positive, Matkowski said, even if there are no guarantees that game play can resume.
“So far, what we hear back is they are just so glad and appreciative that we are doing everything we can to get the kids on the field at all ages this spring,” Matkowski said.
“Some of these kids haven’t thrown a ball for nearly two years.”
Government grants and quick thinking have helped the associations survive, with organizers adapting to never-before-seen circumstances by devising programming with modified rules.
The 2020 KYSA spring season was cancelled. Increased registration in the fall and winter campaigns helped to offset losses. Hopes are growing for the 2021 spring season.
“We’re hearing kids should be back to playing games by April,” said McMahon, noting that is the most recent messaging from Dr. Henry.
But the KYSA is ready to pivot, with back-up plan behind back-up plan on deck.
“Even if we don’t have a season as we thought we would, a lot of people want to participate in soccer programming,” McMahon said. “We can deliver that for sure.”
Matkowski is taking a cautious approach to the return to normalcy at the ballpark.
“I don’t think we’ll be at the old-school normal for a few years, until youth are vaccinated and we can all safely be at the park and sitting on the bleachers,” she said. “We’re far from normal.
“Right now, we’re going to get them out there swinging bats and hitting balls. We’ll see what Dr. Bonnie Henry offers and maybe they will get to play some games. But as for our rep teams, I just don’t know. We just wait and see.”