By CLAUDE SCILLEY
There may not be high school sports in the fall, but there will be football for players of high school age.
That’s because the Kingston Grenadiers organization plans to conduct a fall “house league” in the event that there is no game in the scholastic milieu due to a job action by secondary school teachers.
Online registration will begin Friday.
In a directive sent to members in July, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation instructed its members not to prepare for extra curricular activities in the fall. The union is in a legal strike position and may also opt to take that path. It’s expected to decide what action it will take at a leadership gathering Aug. 20.
The Grenadiers, a community organization with teams that play in the spring and summer in the Ontario Varsity Football League, had been approached about fielding a team in a fall provincial league, Alex Walsh, the team’s executive director, said.
“I thought about it and said, ‘You know what? That only allows for 50 kids. What we do with the 200 others?’” she said. “We have talent in Kingston, so much talent. To give the opportunity (to play) to more kids we decided to have our own little house league.”
The original plan called for six “regional” teams within the immediate Kingston area, Walsh said, but players would be welcome even if their high school typically does not have a team. Since talk of the league began, groups from Gananoque and Belleville have expressed interest in joining, as well.
The Grenadiers would charge players a fee, in the neighbourhood of $200, which Walsh said is comparable to what students pay to play for a high school team. The organization would also approach businesses and community groups to offset the costs of operating a league, such as renting fields and equipment and paying for insurance, transportation and officials.
If the labour dispute involving teachers is resolved, Walsh said, “we pull the plug and the kids return to their home team.”
“If (nothing) happens before Sept. 1, then we just kind of say, ‘OK we’re good to go.’ If (it’s resolved) once we’ve started, the kids stop, they go back to their high schools, and whatever fees we’ve collected go back to their programs.
“We support all the high school programs and we’re very proud of our football in Kingston, so we want that money to go back into the high schools so they can continue running their programs, so it doesn’t hurt them that we’re doing this.”
Walsh said she doesn’t want people to get the idea the Grenadiers are in the business of fall football.
“We’re OVFL, we’re summer football, that’s it,” she said. “We support the union. We support what the teachers are standing up for. A lot of our parents and coaches are teachers and we do support them, but by the same token, part of the education of a kid is athletics and the life lessons that they take away and the friendships that they build.
“They would be devastated if there were no high school sports.”
Walsh said registration is beginning now, because logistical plans have to be made in the event there are no high school sports come September. First, though, the Grenadiers have to know how many players are interested in being involved.
“It’s kind of a fine line for us to walk but at the end of the day, we figured that we have to put everything aside and do what’s best for the kids, not just our group here, but at large,” she said. “This is going to give the kids an opportunity to do something; keep them busy, keep them out of trouble, keep them focused.
“I truly believe that kids who are involved in sports excel better in school and football, unlike any other team sport, is a stepping stone to post-secondary. We want to keep football alive, keep them going, especially the guys who are in their last year.”