An educator from Chippewa Intermediate and Secondary School is digging this chance to help student-athletes who have been so resilient through the starts, stops and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic to compete once again at the highest level of secondary school sports in Ontario.
Craig Nodwell says it's all about the kids. In a quest to take the next step toward "normal" for those student-athletes, tournament convenor Nodwell, assisted by Shawn Plamondon and a dedicated team of volunteers is bringing the OFSAA Boys' AA Volleyball tournament to North Bay, Nov. 25–27.
"We're hosting this for our students. That's the main reason. We applied to host last year's event but those kids lost out on competing at OFSAA because of Covid. We had three of them come back this year. They're a wonderful group of boys and they've worked hard for this."
Nodwell credits the mentorship of local sports tourism head Larry Tougas on successfully putting the budget and bid for the tournament together.
"We just got the go-ahead from the Health Unit and the school board so we're getting the word out to the community," says Nodwell, adding there are opportunities for community sponsorship available to help defray costs of putting on the event, slated to bring several hundred visitors to town.
The Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations developed new health protocols for its resuming events in conjunction with health units across the province. The championships are the first since the onset of the pandemic and the ensuing OFSAA festival cancellations in 2020–21 due to public health directives.
"The local Health Unit wants these events to occur, as long as they are done safely and properly," Nodwell notes. "There are also school board protocols to follow. It will be a very safe tournament and hopefully a great experience for all those participating."
He acknowledges these championships held in North Bay and officially hosted by NOSSA will still be a little different. Per OFSAA rules, no spectators will be permitted although Nodwell hopes that directive might change in the weeks leading up to the event — to be contested by a smaller than typical 12-team field at Chippewa and West Ferris Intermediate and Secondary School. The traditional banquet for participants will not take place.
The organizers are working on forming partnerships to stream or broadcast the games for family and friends and other interested spectators.
Nodwell adds, "We're hosting it for the student-athletes but we're also trying to inject a little bit of life and spark the North Bay economy by bringing in some teams," who will stay at local hotels and eat-in or takeout from restaurants in town.