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WMHA moves programming to skill development during red restriction level

Many organizations have had to make programming changes because of the new level of restrictions
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When Region of Waterloo Public Health was moved into the 'red - control' level of restriction, that came with minor hockey associations forced to change what it can offer. 

Greg Best is the Vice-President of Waterloo Minor Hockey Association and he told the Mike Farwell Show on 570 NEWS that every child - no matter the skill level will still get to see ice. 

"It's more of a focus on individual skills versus game play, or tactics," said Best, "things like battle drills, corner battles or net front battles - that's all out the window now to be able to comply with the physical distancing." 

The season has been unlike any other season that the organization has had to face. 

"We are continually changing and adapting to the changes within the region and our health landscape. We've had to adjust things on the go."

Best said that given the time of isolation that kids are facing, that WMHA wanted to be an organization to be able to provide an outlet for the kids.

"Their social, emotional health and well-being are really crucial at this time," said Best. 

When the region was shifted to 'red - control', Best said things have changed drastically. 

"We are reduced to only ten players on the ice at any given ice-time," said Best, "we are permitted some coaches but we are restricted as well in terms of what they can do out there. Game play has now been shut down, it's limited largely to just skill development and keeping social distancing of two-metres, so it's a change."

WMHA's coaches have adapted and have been able to rise to the challenge to keep kids engaged and keep learning. 

Best said that some of the skill development drills that are being performed are more related to individual skill. 

"Our coaches are more focused on skating, shooting, passing, and those sort of individual facets of the game." 

Parents who love to come out to watch their child play hockey, are also facing some restrictions. 

"Our region has since reversed course and parents of minor children are permitted to come to the rink," said Best, "it's one parent only that can come to the rink but they are able to help their child get ready if need be and watch throughout the ice-time."

WMHA said that it also has made a conscious decision a few years ago as an organization that every kid that signs up for the programming is considered a Waterloo Wolve. 

"I think we're unique in Ontario in that everybody that signs for our programming is a Wolf, in fact, we have changed all of our recreational team names to give them a Wolves name, so that they feel the same as a rep player. I think it's an important cultural shift, and I think it guides our decision-making to ensure that our programming is available for all skills, all ages, and all levels."

Best said that it hasn't been difficult to find ice-time so that all players are able to touch the ice throughout the season. 

"We had to pivot really quickly, we only had a few days to make it work but we were able to find additional ice, and additional resources - we have the best volunteer-base and we were able to get new coaches and new teams setup literally within days and nobody missed a single day, or a single hour of ice-time in that transition."

WMHA said that mostly everyone who signed up for hockey at the start of the year are still there right now. 
 

"We've had a few people drop-off, but about 95 per cent are still there and still wanting the opportunity. We are living in a period of isolation, kids aren't able to go to school or see friends as much as they used to, so this is important. It's important for them to be able to get out on the weekend, see some friends and have that social interaction to get out and make those connections," said Best, "people still want to go, still want to play and still want to be engaged."

WMHA said that if it does face a further level of restrictions that the organization is looking at what it's next pivot may look like. 

"That's what we are looking at right now, typically our programs run from September to April. This year, we only programmed until December. We're game-planning for what happens in a lock down, or if we stay red past Christmas, 'what do things look like when we try and get back on the ice in January?" said Best, "Everything is on the table and we continue to work on what things may look like in a month or two."

Best said the kids have been the most resilient of everyone and that they show up every day for the love of the game and to continue to have a smile on their face and to have fun. 

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