Better late than never.
A combination of provincial health guidelines, caution exercised by the City of Greater Sudbury when it came to the re-opening of sports venues, and the desire by the GSSC (Greater Sudbury Soccer Club) to deliver soccer programming in a meaningful way, all of which link back, of course, to the current pandemic, conspired to keep thousands of local youngsters off the fields for the majority of this summer.
But with a few months of availability remaining, notably on the turfed offering at the James Jerome Sports Complex, the GSSC announced, just recently, skills sessions that will run from August 31st through until October 24th or so.
Given the restrictions that accompany the times in which we live, and the general malaise of the past six months or so, demand is expected to run high for the twice a week workouts that include both recreational level and more competitive athletes - on different nights.
While he would have loved to be able to make the statement several months ago, GSSC club head coach Giuseppe Politi is thankful to be able to proclaim that the timing, right now, is finally right.
"If you look at Stage 1 of the OS (Ontario Soccer) return to play protocols, everybody would have to be apart, it is complete physical distancing, no one on ones, no small side games," he said.
"We (GSSC) decided to wait until at least Stage 2. That's now happened - you can run a practice that is reasonable. You don't have extended periods of time where people are close to each other, but if you want to play a five on five, you can play five on five without ignoring protocols."
"That's what allowed us to run the camps in North Bay," Politi added, noting his involvement with similar initiatives this summer 90 minutes east of Sudbury. "We didn't play tag, we avoided any hand contact with the ball, it's a lot of common sense - and it still resembled 90% of normalcy."
While it appeared at one point as though the GSSC would be limited to booking their field times in just two week blocks, the information now being shared noted that parents may sign up their kids for the full eight weeks, with the understanding that circumstances could change should Sudbury fall victim to a spike in Covid-19 cases, in the interim.
For now, that is about as much as Politi and the balance of the GSSC board could have hoped for.
"My hope would be to start indoor sessions right on the heels of our outdoor program," said Politi, hopeful that the new bubble complex located adjacent to Lasalle Secondary School might be in a position to book community groups by some time in October or November.
The Rainbow District School Board confirmed last week in a news release that the "dome is now being fully funded and operated by the Rainbow District School Board", given that the donation pledged by the "Fabio Belli Foundation was not realized".
Furthermore, the release noted that "community use remains on hold due to Covid-19, though the dome will reopen to students in Rainbow Schools with enhanced health and safety protocols."
All of that said, it should be noted that at some point, the single biggest benefit of allowing community groups access to the bubble lies in the revenue stream that would accompany those bookings, especially in a year in which extra-curricular high-school sporting competitions are expected to remain extremely limited.
Community usage would align nicely with the long-term vision of Politi and the GSSC, it would seem. "My ultimate goal for the club, on a long-term basis, is to have a fall session, perhaps late September to Christmas, then a natural break, and then a winter session from January to Easter, leading into the summer outdoor soccer season," said Politi.
Better late than never.
(Current plans call for recreational soccer sessions on Monday evenings and Saturday mornings, with competitive players gathering together on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Anyone looking to register an athlete should visit the GSSC website at www.gssc.ca, or email the club administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org.