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In a recent Abacus Data survey, 90 per cent of Canadians said they believe sport will play a key role in helping society to rebuild and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Sport and recreation allow for the creation of strong social bonds and foster a sense of community, both of which have been challenged during these past months.

With the pandemic challenging the way we play sport, coaches and leaders will need the right resources to ensure athletes can continue to train at home and return to sport safely. To support the new ways coaches are navigating sport, Hydro One and the Coaches Association of Ontario (CAO) have developed Safe Sport 101, a new virtual hub that provides coaches with the tools to keep sport safe, fun and inclusive for all participants. The hub has resources to both support in-person activities when they are deemed safe and to empower coaches with tips and resources to coach virtually. 

“We need coaches to have the resources necessary to continue supporting athletes and participants as they navigate this challenging time,” said Jeremy Cross, CAO Executive Director. “This partnership with Hydro One provides coaches with the tools they need to be there for their community throughout the pandemic and moving forward, while keeping safety top of mind.”

“Coaches play an important role in facilitating programs for youth that enhance their physical and mental well-being while keeping them socially connected which is particularly important during this challenging time,” said Jay Armitage, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Hydro One. “We have a responsibility to support community resilience across the province, and are proud to partner with the Coaches Association of Ontario to develop new online safety resources for coaches at a time when they are needed most.”  

Coaches and leaders need to be equipped with the right knowledge to create a safe environment for athletes, following the advice of local public health units. Through Safe Sport 101, whether virtually or in-person, coaches have additional tools to support physical and emotional safety for athletes across the province. 

Four tips for coaches navigating this time:

  1. Review safety protocols

When your sport gets the green light, the first step is to ensure you are up to date with the relevant return to play protocols. Coaches should have updated emergency action plans, contact tracing trackers and health questionnaires readily available during all sessions. Free templates are available here. Depending on local circumstances, in-person activities may not be possible. Find the resources to support virtual coaching here.

  1. Easing back into training

Coaches should have a detailed plan for returning safely after a lengthy layoff, once permitted to resume. Focus on building your athletes back up to the pre-pandemic level through incremental daily and weekly training. Coaches should think about using this time to train smarter, not harder, and focus on technique, skill development, progression and most of all the athlete’s safety and well-being. Too much, too fast can result in injury, burnout, and potentially withdrawal from sport. 

  1. Support your athlete’s mental health

When an athlete is in distress, they may turn to their coach for support. Be a positive role model and build mental health and emotional safety into regular daily conversations with your athletes. Understand that each athlete is unique and support can look different from one person to another. 

  1. Keep the lines of communication open

Keep in touch regularly with your athletes and guardians about the new safety protocols that have been implemented and why they are important. Additionally, work together to set new targets and goals for the year that take into account returning after time away from the sport.

Prioritizing safety requires careful planning and implementation to enhance the overall sport experience for all. Coaches can find more safety tips at to find the tools and resources to keep sport safe, positive and fun.