NOC cautiously returns to training
Caution, caution and more caution is how the Niagara Olympic Club approached a return to training at its St. Catharines facility this week.
The track and field club waited an extra week from when Niagara moved to the red zone from the grey zone before resuming training on Monday.
“We did it out of an abundance of caution and because of the weather too. We wanted to let the weather turn a bit,” said Randy McDougall, the club’s throwing coach. “We wanted to make sure we had time to talk to the kids over the Zoom sessions so that they would know what to expect when they got here.”
McDougall, who is the manager of logistics and planning for Niagara Emergency Medical Services, is the club’s go to guy when it comes to adhering to pandemic health guidelines. He is not overly confident the red zone training will continue.
“I am preparing myself that we will be back in the grey but I am hoping that people do the right thing and we can stay where we are,” he said. “I work in public health and the message is if we can buckle down, we could possibly stay in the red.
“With the vaccines and the warmer weather coming, we can get past the worst of it, but it’s if we do the right thing for the next eight weeks.”
McDougall would love for Niagara to get to the orange zone level and see the Niagara Olympic Club return to a much greater degree of normalcy.
“If we do it the right way and get to orange, we would be able to being the club back together all at the same time,” he said. “We still would have to respect the pods but we could all be here as a family again.
“That would be fantastic.”
Before coming to the track this week, club members had an on-line form they needed to fill out. Athletes have to wear a mask on the way and out of the facility and can only take the mask off while they are exercising.
“We are trying to keep two metres apart at all times as best we can but they are young athletes. We are trying to stay away from shared equipment because as soon as you get into that you have to be three metres apart,” McDougall said.
The club has staggered its groups so they come on different nights to keep attendance at under 25. In total, 45 athletes will return to training at the club this week.
Monday’s throwing group was taking baby steps.
“All we have done is some fitness workouts over Zoom so I am trying to get them back to their basic drills and make sure their running form is correct before I push them too hard,” McDougall said. “I want to make sure all the basics all there.”
The reaction from the athletes has been all positive.
“They are excited, mostly about the in-person contact,” McDougall said. “Everyone was getting tired with just seeing people over Zoom. It’s getting to see real people.”
Returning to training is crucial for all the club’s athletes.
“It’s great for their mental health, not just their physical health,” he said. “We were doing excellent stuff for physical health over Zoom but the mental health side is huge for them. And the idea that we’re building towards some competitions and getting back to what they love to do, is a good change.”
One of the athletes returning to training was Ashtynn Caldwell, a Grade 12 student from Centennial, who trains in high jump.
“It feels great to be back and to be able to run and be with my friends,” she said. “Last year wasn’t too bad because we had a couple of competitions but not having OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships) was tough. I just want to compete.”