A commentary by the chief executive of the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence at Camosun College’s Interurban Campus. A reboot of our continuing series on the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses. Six months after a lockdown and re-opening, business people share the experiences and their views on moving forward.
In May, I wrote about how PISE dealt with the initial blow from COVID-19 and the impact on our team and programs. March was dark as we shut down operations. April was eerily quiet, but May started to show signs of activity. I believed that our community would rally and that opportunities might be possible.
So here we are six months later and our world has changed.
A maxim I use quite often, probably well learned as a competitive athlete, is that necessity is the mother of invention.
That has certainly been true of many of the adaptations and coping strategies that we have observed in our community and society. At PISE, we spent May trying to understand, and then how to apply, the new safety protocols expected of us to be able to reopen and re-engage safely.
Essential was figuring out how to continue to provide our quality services — more needed than ever for physical and mental health — in a way that would make people feel safe and comfortable.
So applying the safety guidelines established by our provincial health authority and WorkSafe B.C., we brought back our team in a phased approach and applied a variety of new protocols. These included reduced-contact features such as Plexiglas shields, one-way foot traffic with multiple entrances, frequent sanitizing/disinfecting and creation of a new online reservation system for our fitness centre with appropriate spacing between clients.
After training our team on how to apply this new format, we were able to reopen June 15. We were also able to offer our youth summer camps, first outside with smaller group numbers, and then at full capacity through the summer. In mid-August, the first of our facility rentals returned, as sports such as soccer were able to safely train outside on our field.
Olympic and Paralympic athletes were able to resume training at PISE this summer in controlled groups. In September, Camosun College students have been able to return for their physical activity classes in the Centre for Sport and Exercise Education program.
I can tell you it is with a big smile that I walk through PISE now, seeing our field and outdoor areas filled with children, athletes, students and members of our community who are active and happy.
We were also able to complete a major renovation of our gymnasium and front entrance from April to August. With a quiet indoor facility and willing contractors, we have been able to more than double the seating in the gymnasium with accessible seating and create a proper performance basketball/volleyball court for the Camosun Chargers who call PISE home. We look forward to opening the remodelled gymnasium when the Chargers can resume playing.
We do not know what the immediate future looks like, but remain optimistic. That is a choice we all have, because the alternative is to live in a state of fear and anxiety. I believe many of the adjustments that we, as a society, have applied through this pandemic have resulted in greater efficiencies and comfort with alternative work schedules and methods of interaction.
Going forward, I see a more hybrid world of remote work, medicine and electronic learning combined with in-person contact. We are now much better prepared to deal with the inevitable seasonal flu and cold season through creation of a safe work environment for front-line workers and the clients and customers they serve. Many of the new health and safety protocols are here to stay and that is good for everyone.
I do have a real concern for our economy and the financial impact of COVID-19.
At PISE, we have lost close to a third of our revenue this year, but realize we are far from the worst hit. We will be able to manage the year financially through cutting expenses and some programs as well as greater efficiencies and the federal government wage subsidy.
The tougher exercise is trying to understand our new business reality in the next year, once government support potentially stops and business models have to reflect the new economic reality. Donations and sponsorships will be severely stretched, while consumers will be very selective about what to purchase and where to invest their time and money.
This is where I believe the values and principles that we develop for ourselves and our organizations are so critical during a crisis, because they truly guide us. Not only do they guide us in understanding clearly why we are in business and our priorities, but they also communicate to our community what we stand for and what everyone can expect of us. I think values-based quality in design and delivery will be a choice differentiator for people in our new future.
However, the biggest difference-maker at PISE is our team. I am deeply privileged to help lead such a passionate, dedicated group of present and future leaders who all stepped up to bring their best through this challenging time. They care deeply and I am very appreciative and thankful for their efforts. They are PISE.
PISE, like so many organizations in our region, has become better through our great global challenge and we look forward to being a major contributor to building community health and quality of life as we recover and adjust to our new normal.
Robert Bettauer is the CEO of PISE (pise.ca), the tennis analyst for Sportsnet and a former Davis Cup Tennis Player and Olympic coach for Canada.
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