Like so many local sport organizations, the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club (GSSC) could hardly contain their enthusiasm when health guidelines and city regulations allowed the group access to fields and turf a few months ago.
But make no mistake - when push comes to shove, it will always be safety first.
Informed of a positive case of COVID-19 involving one of their young athletes on Friday, the decade-old club opted to postpone all soccer related activities and programming on this weekend - this despite the fact that Public Health Sudbury and Districts had clearly indicated that they were not mandated to do so.
"Our mindset is that we would err on the side of caution," noted GSSC president Joe Snofl on Sunday. "We wanted to allow Public Health the time to do their contact tracing and to investigate more - and we wanted to give people enough time, in terms of cancellation."
In fact, the GSSC actually issued a pair of information bulletins on Friday. In addition to acknowleding the positive test, the first memorandum also went on to say that the GSSC "will remain operating as we conclude our season", reminding folks of proper health protocols and acknowledging that the "PHSD has informed the club that we are safe to continue operating all programs..."
Several hours later, the group made the decision not to take any chances. "After further consideration, we have decided to suspend all club soccer activities, for all youth and adult players, through this weekend (October 24-25)", noted the message that was distributed to all members.
"This shut-down is for precautionary measures to ensure that there is no risk of spread throughout the club due to soccer programming", it added. Thankfully, the situation, while unfortunate, was certainly not a shock.
"I'm very contingent in the way that I think," admitted Snofl. "COVID aside, that's just the way I think. I tend to think of the problems that could occur. Sudbury has been fortunate to have very few outbreaks."
"But this is a learning experience for everyone in the north, as we had into the winter season, which is new. We were absolutely prepared to pause things, if it was warranted. We had already had those discussions."
But as with the case with any volunteer board, one which one filled with people who have full-time work commitments and busy lives in general, trying to react quickly to this type of news is not easy.
"We wanted to take control of the situation and inform our members of the situation, as best that we knew it," said Snofl. "We certainly have confidence that Public Health is contacting who they felt is at risk, but we also did our own reach out, just to make sure that we had all bases covered."
"Once we found out about the positive test, we got some clarity. We were on top of it, right away. We wanted parents, families, players to know, just so that they could be more diligent in terms of taking the necessary precautions and staying safe."
The fact of the matter is that this weekend was to be the last of the current fall sessions, with the club open to the possibility of finishing things off next weekend, depending on the feedback provided by Public Health.
"Although we are not cancelling the outdoor season, we know that snow is on the horizon," explained Snofl. "So we are hopeful that we will get some time in to end the season."
Of course, things don't become much easier for the group moving forward. While the logical site to shift their winter training would be the brand new Lasalle Dome, the fact remains that the facility, like all other properties for all four local school boards, is currently inaccessible tor community groups.
Snofl is hopeful that the ability for the venue to generate a revenue stream based on evening rentals, combined with the fact that the building is physically separated from Lasalle Secondary School itself, might help move forward discussions between the GSSC and the Rainbow District School Board.
As a teacher himself, he is fully understanding of the challenges in place, if the Board decides to allow evening and weekend rentals. His hope is that decision makers will note that facilities such as the Sudbury YMCA, Sudbury Christian Academy, The Baseball Academy and local curling clubs are finding a way to open their doors, while still following health protocols.
"I don't want to speak for other sports groups, but sports groups are already moving forward with some indoor activities," he said. "The reality is that athletes will be mixing."
And that is before we bring hockey in the mix, with most local associations implementing three on three game play either this upcoming weekend, or in the coming weeks. This might be the first local sports group to have to deal with a positive COVID test, but it definitely will not be the last.