If we are to make sense of a recent government directive – although it’s hard to find much meaning in it – then the most dangerous thing anyone under the age of 18 can do in Ireland in these times is playing a game of basketball or volleyball.
Last Thursday evening, the same day that Sport Ireland launched its Let’s Get Back to Sport video campaign filled with hoop analogies, the basketball community was shocked by the news that the same agency had indeed declared that the players minors should be left on the sidelines unless they produce a vaccination passport.
And so across the country, every U12 basketball game scheduled for the past weekend – the first time most of the potential contestants could ever have worn their club shirts, and the first time any of them would have played a match in 20 months – was canceled; after all, if you are 11, how can you produce a vaccination passport when you can’t even get vaccinated?
All school basketball competitions – which feature more than 750 schools and were due to start this week after that 20-month layoff – have been postponed and may not even take place because, under other regulations government regulations, schools cannot ask students what their vaccine is. status.
This means that for all the polish and spin that went with this Sport Ireland promotional video, its message rings hollow if you are involved in an indoor team sport. “And just like that, they called the time out,” his voiceover begins, referring to the events of March 2020. “For the first time, we crossed a finish line that we had never trained for. But now it’s time. It’s time to remember what it feels like to leave it all there. Give every ounce, every breath, and put a score back on the board … Let’s come back.
Only you cannot put a score back on the board if you are U12, or for your school if you are U18. Somewhere, someone decided to call the timeout again.
There is understandable outrage and confusion within the indoor sports community, especially basketball. Anomalies and inconsistencies abound.
Most blatantly, at a time when teens can walk into crowded restaurants, bars and nightclubs without producing a vaccination certificate, they must produce one to play a sports match this February. Twelve-year-olds are believed to be safe when unmasked in a classroom with 30 other people for more than five hours a day, but not safe to be constantly on the move in a 100-meter-long room . They can attend a national championship match but not a minor match.
Adult players and coaches in international and national leagues do not have to produce a vaccination passport due to their elite status, unlike 13-year-old children. An unvaccinated 18-year-old player can participate in a National League match but not in a U18 club or school match.
A vaccinated teen cannot play for his school, but an unvaccinated player can still train in groups of six with vaccinated teammates.
The same week Tony Holohan spoke about how “schools are vital to the health and well-being of our children” and the importance “of balancing the priorities of safeguarding public health in the community with the social and psychological developmental needs of our younger generation, ”with some implying a saying about its problems as limiting the most popular school sport among teenage girls, a demographic particularly prone to drop out.
In the same month, Micheál Martin said: “We do not plan to back down, the only problem we face now is to move forward”, part of his government imposed these extended restrictions on indoor sport until at least February.
At this point, basketball has had to deal with its share of weird restrictions during Covid. Even when he went outside last winter, after asking Sport Ireland for clarification, it was said that passing the ball was prohibited as such an act qualified as equipment sharing. When he was finally put back inside on September 20, he was told that while teams could play friendlies against other clubs, they couldn’t play a scrimmage with each other in training; The 3v3 was the best they could do because that way they would follow the protocol of training in groups of six. Yet they sucked it up. On October 22, they would be back to playing and training normally – only to learn a few days after that date that they wouldn’t. There isn’t a lot that sport and its community can handle.
UCD Marian, one of the largest and longest running clubs in the country, noted on its Twitter account that the new government restrictions “put enormous pressure on children (many of whom are not in control if they get the vaccine. or not) “.
Tralee Imperials, a nurturing club for Superleague Powerhouse Tralee Warriors, argued that the current regulations violate Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which “ensures that the child is protected from all forms of discrimination on the basis of status, expressed the views or beliefs of the child’s parents.
Adrian Fulton, coach of not only the Belfast Star Superleague champions but also frequent St Malachy’s National Schools Cup champions, stressed that the Sport Ireland directive is not only controversial but even partitionist. “The current government policy in the north is to offer a single jab for children under 18; they are unlikely to have a second before the end of spring. Thus, under Sport Ireland regulations, no child from the north will be able to participate in the Schools Cup. Sport Ireland must reverse this decision as U18 boys and girls can do anything they want except play a game of basketball.
Interestingly, in a letter to basketball shareholders yesterday, interim CEO Paddy Boyd noted that some of the new restrictions were against Sport Ireland’s wishes. “We understand from Sport Ireland that their Return to Sport Expert Group recommended that the restrictions not apply to players under the age of 18. This recommendation is under consideration at the government level and a response is expected early next week. We continue to lobby at every level possible and Sport Ireland shares our frustration that their recommendation has yet to be answered. “
Basketball isn’t the only sport seriously affected and envisions a full second season being wiped out, resulting in a large percentage of its player population hemorrhaging. Volleyball has postponed the start of all of its competitions, including its first domestic league, by two more weeks, until November 27, and plans to extend its season well beyond February, when current government restrictions are supposed to be lifted.
“It’s a decision governed by our three core values: inclusion, respect and integrity,” said Sporting Director Gary Stewart. “We support the government’s vaccination program and are proud that Ireland has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. We also respect that vaccination is a personal choice and as such we are postponing the national league for two weeks to give participants who are currently unvaccinated the best possible chance to play at the start of the season. It also allows those who do not wish to be vaccinated the opportunity to participate meaningfully when restrictions ease in February.
“We hope the government can reverse its decision to restrict children’s participation in indoor sports. Each year, more than 900 teams participate in our school competition program and 18 clubs participate in our National Junior Girls League. The long-term effects on a child’s development from not playing sports during the winter months, or not sharing physical activity with their friends, are significant.
As it turns out, there was some juvenile basketball last weekend. The County Cork Board of Directors continued to host their National Invitational Michael Heffernan Under-18 Tournament with up to 17 participating clubs, with everyone playing, assisting, coaching and refereeing required to produce a vaccination passport. Whether this becomes the norm for minor club basketball across the country is debatable and controversial, but in recognition of the challenge that Covid remains for the country, Ireland’s top basketball figures are open to adult players – including and above all – at the elite level – having to produce vaccine certificates, as they do in professional leagues, especially the NBA.
But what there should be total uniformity is that children who do not have access to a vaccine should still be allowed to play their sport. Elsewhere in the world, such as in Spain, there are U12 and U14 matches where children wear masks. But there is no other place in the world that currently prohibits U12s from playing basketball games – only Ireland.
The hope and expectation is that this week the government will recognize the anomalies in its new regulations, allowing all of us to forgive it and the bureaucrats who invented them.
What would be unforgivable is that they double the stake.
As Stewart says, “All stakeholders need to come together and find a way for our kids to play sports. It’s too important.