The pandemic sidelined the world from playing basketball for the better part of two years. Courts and gyms left vacant and silent. No shots, no scuffs and no squeaks. The remainder of the 2020 NBA season was played in a bubble. Things were far from normal in many aspects of life and basketball was no different.
Cross-Odor operates across North America but is proud to call Canada home. In Ontario, Canada, we’ve been anxiously awaiting to safely get back onto the courts. The wait is finally over. We sat down with our partners at the Ontario Basketball Association (OBA) to discuss the “return to play” strategy, player safety and the future of basketball in Ontario.
Q: What do you think the future of basketball in Ontario will look like, post-pandemic?
It’s hard to say but we’ve had a lot of demand, a lot of families eager to sign up and get back on the court. The basketball community is a resilient one and a passionate one too. There was a lot of momentum before the pandemic with increased registration every year as basketball grows in popularity and we are forecasting for that to continue. In Ontario the sport fits the changing demographic and we’re always trying to meet that demand with new programs and opportunities for athletes, and new partnerships to support that growth. In the meantime, we have to make sure we’re approaching the Return to Play safely.
Q: How are you ensuring players remain safe when they return to play in Ontario gyms?
Throughout the pandemic we’ve operated out of an abundance of caution including the immediate cancellation of events starting March 2020. As government guidelines were updated we worked closely with the Ministry and sport legal counsel to dig deeper into the actual government eLaws (not just what was said on the news) to present the most thorough and safety-conscious guidelines we could. OBA realized its role as a governing body of sport during the pandemic where throughout the province all basketball programs, not just our own membership, waited on OBA’s direction and guidance. When the season starts we’ll be following, communicating, and enforcing alongside facilities the rules in Step 3 of the Ontario Government’s Roadmap to Reopening as well as our organization’s mandatory vaccine policy for sports facilities. And of course, encouraging the ongoing wearing of masks, distancing where possible, and frequent use of hand sanitizer.
Q: Besides getting leagues and games back on the court, what are you most looking forward to about the return of basketball in Ontario?
We love getting in the gym and seeing some of the amazing coaches, referees, and players in this province! It brings us back to why we do this job. That’s been the hardest part of the last year-and-a-half of working without any games taking place. That’s when you get to see the payoff of all the hard work behind the scenes. We’ve also had to be creative with new programs (like our upcoming 3x3 rollout), partnerships (Superleague with CYBL and HoopCity, JUEL alignment), and recognition opportunities for athletes (Team Ontario athlete video profiles, OBA Nav Bhatia Community Athlete Award) during this time so ensuring those continue while building on our strong programs is an exciting way to restart.