After cancelling its summer programs this year due to COVID-19, Special Olympics Airdrie (SOA) will provide a trial period throughout November for its bowling and snowshoeing programs.
According to Media Relations Co-ordinator Sue Fillatres-Farkas, the trial will be free and open to returning SOA athletes. If the first month goes smoothly and Airdrie keeps its number of COVID-19 cases low, she said SOA will continue to offer the two sports in January 2021.
"Everyone just needs to be flexible and understand there could still be some changes,” she said. “These are the rules. They're going to be enforced very strictly. Our ultimate goal, of course, is to keep everybody safe.”
To help reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, Fillatres-Farkas said SOA is hiring a program safety volunteer for each sport, who will make sure health protocols are followed.
"The role of this person is just to follow the safety procedures so that the coach can work on coaching the athletes and working on their skills, and not have to worry about all the other stuff that is going to be following in the background," she said.
Fillatres-Farkas said bowling will be capped at 30 participants. Bowlers will be placed in groups of five, which will bowl together throughout the trial period.
Bowling will take place Monday evenings at Shamrock Lanes, Fillatres-Farkas said. A buffer lane will separate cohorts and a volunteer coach will be on hand for each group. Parents and spectators will not be allowed to attend.
One disappointing but necessary decision, according to Fillatres-Farkas, is the suspension of tournaments and games with other Special Olympics affiliates this winter.
“It's a year to focus on skills,” she said. “It's the same thing with snowshoeing – they won't be racing or passing each other because they want to keep everyone distanced. The nice thing about snowshoeing is that it's a little safer because it's outside.”
Snowshoeing will be held on Saturdays at a to-be-determined time and location, she added.
Despite a lack of tournaments and a host of new protocols to keep in mind, Fillatres-Farkas said SOA athletes are simply happy to see each other again and participate in some of their favourite social and physical activities.
“We're a family,” she said. “These guys – some of them haven't seen each other since the initial shutdown, so this is something that is going to be really exciting for them. Even with these protocols, we want them to have fun."
In addition to registration, all athletes and volunteers must fill out a Code of Conduct document, a participation waiver, a media opt-out agreement and a COVID-19 declaration within two weeks of their chosen program starting.