Island sports organizations receive pandemic funding boost

Two consecutive seasons without players catching, passing and shooting the solid-rubber ball is not something Cowichan Valley Lacrosse Association president Chris Claxton wants to contemplate.

“It’s on pause. Hopefully, something can happen this season because everybody misses it,” said Claxton.

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“We’ve been told to prepare for Island-only leagues. Provincial championships are questionable and rightly so.”

The ramifications of the pandemic have been felt on and off the floors and fields of play.

“We had selected our teams last year when everything was shut down and we were unable to give full refunds. It was a tough decision and something the board struggled with,” said Claxton.

His association is among 64 Island sports organizations that received support from the province’s Local Sport Relief Fund. They are part of 288 organizations throughout the province that received the latest round of $1.5 million in relief funding announced Thursday.

That’s not a lot divided by 288, but every little bit is appreciated, say the provincial sports organizations that provide the foundations for thousands of kids across the province who grow up to be pro athletes, varsity athletes, Olympians or most just recreational adult players. Whatever the ultimate destination, it all starts at the grassroots level.

“The money trickles through. It will help,” Claxton said of the funding announcement.

The province, through viaSport, says it has provided $11 million in accelerated funding to provincial, disability and multi-sport organizations since September.

“This funding will help us stay afloat financially,” said Nanaimo Curling Club president Brian McRory.

The Island organizations receiving the funding bump announced Thursday range from the Victoria Mariners and Parksville Royals of baseball, Oceanside Generals of hockey to the Sooke Boxing Club and Burnside and Oak Bay lawn bowling clubs. The full list of Local Sport Relief Fund grant recipients is posted on the viaSport website.

As for the lost development time incurred by top athletes in his sport who dream of playing lacrosse in the NLL, WLA and NCAA, Claxton said: “If players are driven, they will find a way.”

Pretty much every athlete in Canada, if not the world, is in the same boat.

“Coaches, volunteers and board members have worked around the clock to ensure people can keep active and gain the physical and mental benefits of sport during the pandemic,” B.C. Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Minister Melanie Mark said in a statement.

“We heard their challenges to meet financial pressures with current health orders in place.”

No games are allowed to be played in B.C. — NHL games excepted — under the current provincial health restrictions, which expire Feb. 5.

Full team practices are allowed for national-team, professional, varsity and junior-age athletes only.

Training is severely restricted for those 22-years-old and up in adult and oldtimers recreational leagues.

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