Letter from the President - November 2020

November 3, 2020 at 5:33pm

MODS Members,

2020 continues to throw everything it has at us.

While it wasn’t what I had intended, my sign-off from the October letter is ringing truer every day.

We are by no means out of the woods yet. There will likely be more challenges ahead as we enter the fall, and the uncertainty around what restrictions the province will need to mandate for the community's health and safety remains.

Throughout this process we are listening to all members who wish to express their opinion to us on what they believe we should be doing, as MODS exists to serve the membership. We recognize that there are polarizing opinions here. I also want to recognize that, though we did receive a few impassioned complaints questioning the Board’s decision-making, the vast majority of communication from members on this topic has been understanding of the complexity of the situation and supportive of the direction we have been setting. Please continue to reach out and hold us accountable, as the Board’srole is to represent the entire membership.

I wanted to use this letter to shed a bit of light on the Board’s process over the last month as we twice made the decision to postpone league games. The challenge that the Board regularly has to face is to weigh the pros and cons of all the available information, and try to make sound decisions that protect the organization and our membership now and in the future. COVID-19 has presented a generational challenge to organizations and individuals as we all seek to make the best decisions that we can.

For some context, here is some of the challenging information we’ve been faced with over the past month as the Board debated what the best course of action is for us to take:.

  • Physical activity is a key contributor to positive mental and physical health, and shutting recreational sports down because of the pandemic poses other health related risks that need to be considered.
  • Our members registered to play indoor during a time when cases were relatively low and Manitoba was easing restrictions, but the current stage had elevated to code orange and was trending towards code red.
  • Our Return to Play (RTP) protocols are still approved, which means that from a strictly legal perspectivewe had approval to play prior to the mandated shutdown.
  • The messaging from public health was slightly contradictory as we went deeper into October, with clear increases in cases reportedwarningsto reduce the number of contacts, and tightening restrictions to everything except sport on the field.
  • Further digging into the public health directions to sport organizationsfound that while our RTP was still approved, sport organizers were encouraged to not wait for a shutdown order if they believed their programming was not safe at this time. This served to further muddy the waters on if we should be playing or not during the code orange time.
  • This leads to the questiondid we want to riskhaving a major COVID-19 outbreak? This concern and the potential impacts of it on our membership has hovered over our decisions since the start of the pandemic. While we typically let the individual assume the physical health related risks associated with playing, the magnitude of this risk is not the same as say a knee or ankle injury, as the outcome impacts a much larger group.
  • The burden of the financial cost of a self-imposed vs. government-imposed pause in game-play was also an importantWe have been reviewing our refund policy and what is fair to members, as well as ensuring we protect MODS’ ability to secure future contracts with our partners, which has added additional complexity to the situation.
  • Adding to the financial question, the Winnipeg Soccer Federation (WSF), who rents us the indoor fields, has been a strong partner with MODS throughout this uncertain time. Whilefacing their own financial challenges, they are also doing what they can to accommodate our situation. Theircooperation has helped reduce the financial impact of a self-imposed pause in games, which meant the focus could be shifted towards the health and safety aspect of this decision. When we do eventually return to the WSF facilities in the future, please make a point of thanking their front-line staff for the work they do, and respect them and what they ask of you in the RTP process as an extension of MODS’ indoor operations.

All this to say - there was no clear and obvious course of action. There were risksand potential costs no matter what we decided.It was uncertain whether we would be mandated to shut down effective November 2nd, though the information available to us was pointing to the potential of that when the Board made the decision to extend the pause of game play on October 26th. As much as we hope to return to the field again soon, it was helpful for the organization to get clear directions from provincial health on October 30th that play is suspended indefinitely with the heightened restrictions.

How long the mandated shutdown of sport lasts is anyone’s guess. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt through all of this it’s that things are constantly changing with this situation, so at this point we are not in a position to speculate on a return date.

Should we return to playwhile we recognize that everyone who registered made that decision given the available informationno one should feelforcedto play if they no longer feel safe doing soIf your circumstances have changed such that you are no longer comfortable fulfilling your commitment to play, you should not feel obligated to. Please reach out to staff to start that conversation if you are in that situation. We want to work with our members at this time to make sure we are offering programming that is both safe and desired. Likewise, if you remain committed to playing should the provincial restrictions be lifted, staff would also welcome hearing those commitments.All this feedback will help us as we do our best to plan for what comes next.

In the hopes that my sign-off rings true a month from now in the same way that last month’s did - be safe, please follow all public health guidelines and hopefully we find ourselves in a better position from a community health perspective in a month’s time.

Daniel Plourde

President - Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports