All hail the school year returning in Yellowknife.
And all hail the apparent return of scholastic athletics.
After more than two years of no school sports anywhere in the NWT, it appears that there will be a full calendar of events happening in 2022-23. It will begin with the Aurora Ford Outdoor Soccer Tournament in Hay River from Sept. 23 to 25. That’s the traditional start to the school sports season in the NWT, but it will be the first time since 2019 the tournament has been held, disrupted by the pandemic.
There is genuine excitement among those who are involved in scholastic athletics, such as Tobi Taylor-Dusome, who has looked after organizing and coaching at St. Pat’s High School for many years.
She said the fact that everything is a go for this school year is putting a lot of people in a good mood.
“The schedule is all set and all we can do is pray that it unfolds the way it’s done before,” she said. “Getting the kids out on the court, the field or the ice and having fun doing it — that’s the goal every time.”
All of the major events are where they’ve typically been on the calendar in past years: the NWT Cross-Country Championships in Fort Providence in early October, along with Junior and Senior Spike It! volleyball later in the month; the Scott McAdam NWT Badminton Championships in Hay River in early December; Junior and Senior Cager in February, Junior and Senior Super Soccer in April in Yellowknife and the NWT Track and Field Championships in early June.
The Wade Hamer Challenge Cup hockey games are back in their usual spot in November, along with the Lawrie Hobart Memorial Volleyball Tournament in early October, which leads into the Spike It! events.
Rob Hart, who helps out alongside Taylor-Dusome at St. Pat’s, said the kids at his school are chomping at the bit.
“There’s been a real lack of phys-ed and a lower level of activity at schools, but the student-athletes always seem to rise above it,” he said. “We don’t know what it will look like because it’s a new year and a lot of these kids haven’t played school sports in over two years.”
There is a genuine curiosity about what things will looks like, added Taylor-Dusome, because the world is operating under a new normal.
“We have lots of coaches to train and retrain,” she said. “There’s also a lot of students who have never seen what a pep rally looks like, the energy around the school when we’re getting ready to play. It’s almost like reinventing the wheel, in a way.”
Something else that’s changed is the NWT School Athletics Federation, in that it no longer exists. The federation was wound up earlier this spring and Hart explained why.
“We hadn’t really had an official meeting of the federation in many years and we hadn’t submitted any financial statements,” he said.”We talked to Sport North and they told us that we were being dissolved simply because we hadn’t done what we were supposed to be doing. There was no argument because they were right.”
Sport North did leave the door open for the federation to come back in the future, he added.
The organization of tournaments will remain the same, said Hart, with schools and regions looking after scheduling and registrations, based on where each event is.
“If it’s in Yellowknife, then the high schools will look after themselves and the elementary schools will do the same,” he said. “Same with the communities and regions — it’s all about making sure everyone is on the same page.”