Victims of a political rift

Ontario students shut out from athletics

The introduction of the Putting Students First Act could put Ontario student-athletes behind.
Image by: Alex Choi
The introduction of the Putting Students First Act could put Ontario student-athletes behind.

In light of the Ontario teachers’ salary bargaining dispute with the provincial government, student athletes have become victims.

Teachers are walking away from extracurricular activities, putting school sports in a chokehold.

Not only could this tarnish the students’ memories of their years at high school, it’ll likely go so far as to impact their athletic endeavours..

The Putting Students First Act (Bill 115) partially freezes the salary grid of school staff and offers them zero per cent increases, in addition to eliminating sick day banks and banning strikes for two years.

The bill was passed in the Ontario legislature two weeks ago and, unsurprisingly, has prompted a hugely negative reaction from teaching staff across the province, as well as their unions.

In protest, many teachers have abandoned their volunteer positions coaching sports teams or supervising clubs, to the distress of their students.

While a number of high schools have managed to continue offering some extracurricular programs through parental assistance or the blessing of dedicated teachers, others have had to shut down every sports team and club as a result.

From elementary to high school, students are now caught in the crossfire of the politically charged argument, one in which they’re simply a third party bystander.

School sports are often an important setting for players to continue work on their skills throughout the academic year against competitive opposition.

This is particularly true of the high school years, which can serve as a springboard to a higher level of competition.

School team opportunities also serve to expose students to new sports they may not have realized they have a natural gift for or even been previously interested in.

The Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute is fortunate enough to be one of those able to continue running a portion of its clubs and teams.

Nonetheless, they have still had to cancel a handful of clubs and some students worry there might be more to come.

“It’s stressing people out. Everyone is worrying about it,” said Alrich Dewet, a Grade 12 student from the school.

Entering his final year of high school, Dewet was looking forward to playing a variety of sports, including rugby, volleyball, tennis and track and field.

Although nothing’s been announced yet, there’s a possibility that these programs will also be subject to cancellation should more teachers choose to walk away.

For student-athletes like Dewet, the situation may also be a serious hindrance to their prospects of being recruited for post-secondary sports.

Many see their final year of high school as a prime opportunity to showcase their talents to university coaches.

Although there may be local clubs to join for sports like hockey or soccer, they are often expensive and this option isn’t always available for less popular sports.

Consequently, athletes who compete in these other sports may be faced with far more limited recruiting opportunities in comparison to non-Ontario students.

Nick Pateras is a fifth-year member of Queen’s men’s soccer team.


Opinion, Sports

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