Many local sport associations have demonstrated both resilience and creativity in surviving and prospering during the pandemic. The Sudbury Ringette Association were simply one of the groups fortunate enough to get recognized for their efforts.
In May, the local sport organization was presented the Club Innovation Award, one of a handful of hardware winners that were honoured as part of the 2020-2021 Ringette Ontario Choice Awards.
"I think what this award represents is how we approached all of the new regulations for the season," suggested SRA president Shelley Ahmed, who just completed her first full year in the post.
"Our approach was to gather as much information as we could, to make sure that we knew what the regulations were. We always kept our members informed, just letting them know that we were trying to do our best to get everyone back on the ice."
A highlight of the SRA game plan this past winter was accessing grant funds courtesy of the Canadian Red Cross and the Employment and Social Development Canada program, an initiative put in place to help groups dealing with the challenges of COVID-19.
In addition to purchasing masks for the entire association, the monies were also used to purchase a membership on TeamSnap (it included attendance and tracking features) as well as on Zoom, and to help offset some of the additional ice costs incurred at the "Bunnies" level, with limitations in place on the number of youngsters allowed on the ice at one time.
"We knew that the season was going to be different, but we wanted to keep everyone engaged," said Ahmed. "We knew that there weren't going to be tournaments, there might not even be any games, so what could we do to still make it exciting for the kids."
Ahmed, who was part of the group that spearheaded the rebranding of the long-standing local association under the name of the Sudbury Swift, was quick to acknowledge that local support, in a few critical areas, was key to allowing their plans to take root.
"One thing that really played a part in how we were able to move forward was the fact that Sudbury had a relatively low level of cases," she stated. "Because our city did such a good job of keeping the numbers low, we were able to have more kids on the ice, so there was a lot more that we could do in terms of being innovative."
"And honestly, we could not have been as innovative as we were if we did not have the cooperation and partnership that we do with Walden (Ringette Association) and the Valley (Ringette Association)."
"We had to combine players, create different co-horts. We certainly share this award with them, in that sense," added Ahmed.
As for the 2021-2022 campaign, Ahmed sees a slightly different focus ahead.
"There have been quite a few changes coming out of Ringette Ontario", she said. "They've changed the competition structure, which really affects the north. They are introducing children's ringette, which is similar to hockey with half-ice."
"Those are the changes that we will need to focus on this year."
Looking to be equally as effective even if perhaps slightly less innovative.