Game over for winter sports

[attach]6768[/attach]Despite the decision by the public high school teachers union to start supervising extracurriculars again, public high school winter sports have been officially put on ice in Toronto.

“The TDSSAA will not run leagues or championships for the 2013 Winter season,” wrote Toronto’s public high school athletic association, in a letter to coaches Feb. 26.

Toronto District School Board schools also won’t be participating in Winter OFSAA tournaments, listing 12 sports — including swimming, boys’ basketball and girls’ volleyball — that began league play or were slotted to begin between mid-December and January.

“We have our championships set, as far as the dates, and all the arrangements for the winter championships, so they’ll be proceeded as we originally scheduled,” said OFSAA executive director Doug Gellatly. “For the most, if they’re trying to get going now, they’re not going to get in. It’s just too late.”

For OFSAA, this is unprecedented. Administering massive changes due to the boycotts was difficult, and with draws for tournaments already set, delaying tournaments to let public school organizations like the TDSSAA to find their OFSAA qualifications would have been costly and logistically impossible as some winter tournaments began during the first week of March.

For swimmer Jack Zhang, it’s still worth fighting for a season. Attending Northern Secondary, and a member of the school’s 2011-2012 city champion swim team, says he’s been rallying the troops. On the same day as the TDSSAA memo, Zhang and others sent letters to OFSAA.

Previous letters have also been sent to the National Federation of State High School Associations, of which OFSAA is a member.

[attach]6769[/attach]“People are losing scholarships, this is pretty much a disaster right now,” Zhang said. “I think OFSAA should step it up and come up with a solution to this.”

Northern has been getting back to normal, with student government and clubs starting up. Zhang is hoping for an equal chance on the swim team. He has not received a response from OFSAA, as of press time.

The Feb. 26 letter also put coaches on notice that spring sports will continue as planned with coach and convenor meetings planned for dates in March.

While all students lost three months of extracurriculars, [url=]the labour strife — centered on protests about Bill 115[/url] — left competitive student athletes without much option.

Many athletes, even those entering grade 9 this fall, plan on transferring or entering a private or independent school to ensure their athletic careers aren’t interrupted. Many public school students have already transferred to Catholic schools, according to documents by the TDCAA, the Toronto Catholic schools’ athletic association.

The memo bombshell lands in a complicated high school sports landscape. In Toronto basketball, more Catholic and private schools saw leaps in success, grabbing OFSAA spots.

“You look at the field, and you look at [quarterfinals at OFSAA] for example, you don’t see Eastern, you don’t see Oakwood, you don’t see Vaughan,” said Ari Hunter, head coach of the Crescent Coyotes senior boys basketball squad, who grabbed an OFSAA bid this season.

While other athletic associations in Ontario incorporate public, private and Catholic schools, Toronto is home to three different leagues.

For OFSAA AAAA basketball, the CISAA and TDCAA are generally reserved one representative each for the tournament, the TDSSAA has two. With the TDSSAA’s withdrawal, their bids went to the leagues in Hamilton and Southwestern Ontario.

“We went back to the previous years’ gold medallist, they get the first shot at it,” Gellatly said. “Then we go silver, to third, to fourth. That’s the process for filling extra spots.

“Not necessarily does CISAA or TDCAA [fill the spot]. It could be any association in the province.”

Without Oakwood or Eastern Commerce to compete the likes of Mother Theresa and Henry Carr in basketball, the competitive balance has changed for OFSAA’s AAAA basketball crown. That tournament began Mar. 4.

“You still got Top 10 basketball in the province. It’s just when you don’t have some of the other heavy hitters thrown into the mix, it is a shame,” Hunter said. “On the other hand, look, for us, it allowed us to get a direct auto-bid in.

“So I’ll take it, for an opportunity at history, right?”