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Waiting for dust to settle

The 2020/2021 local softball season, run by the Cape Town Softball Association (CTSA), will not go ahead.

The softball season usually runs from October to March every year.

The previous season only managed to finish a matter of days before the lockdown was officially implemented.

The pandemic had a major effect on the sport locally, which has five women and three men’s leagues with many youth teams. Nationally, events such as the National Provincial Championships, normally held in March, was also cancelled.

However, the government stance regarding softball as a non-contact sport has baffled players and administrators alike – who have the collective thought, saying, “there’s nothing soft about it”.

The dust will stand thick when players clash at a base. Contact between opposing players is inevitable.

The majority of clubs supported the Cape Town Softball Association’s (CTSA) executive committee in their proposal not to play the 2020/2021 season.

The CTSA will, however, review the status of the pandemic at the end of November for a possible start in January 2021, albeit a shortened competition season.

The cost to ensure that the playing venues are compliant in terms of regulatory requirements is exorbitant, but CTSA chairperson Hayley Carolus says health and safety is of paramount importance.

“We are responsible and held accountable for their safety and their loved ones at home. It was by no means easy to propose the ‘no play’ (decision). We are all eager to return back to the field of play to continue enjoying this beautiful game we all love so dearly.

“However, this is no normal season we are living in, and we are heading into an uncertain future. We are living in extraordinary times and I hope times that we will never experience in our lifetime again,” she said.

“By moving to alert level 1, we have to be extremely cautious and keep practising social distancing, washing of hands regularly, wearing a mask, as we are now more vulnerable than ever, with limited borders and airports opening up. I would rather want our softball fraternity to be safe, healthy and living than to return to the field of play too soon and be at risk of any danger,” Carolus added.

Nazeem Dulvie, veteran coach of current Super League champions, Westridge Yankees Softball Club, echoed the sentiment, questioning the government’s view that the sport is a non-contact sport.

“Surely the ones who are categorising the code as non-contact has not watched this beautiful game being played at an elite level.

“Pick-off plays on bases are exciting and contact is inevitable. Not to mention those close plays at home plate when players collide as well as ‘run-downs’,” he says.

Dulvie adds that the pandemic has had a major impact on preparations, especially considering the closure of facilities for most of the lockdown period, while limited resources exacerbate the safe return to action.

“Not all players can afford their own equipment, and this has added to the lack of proper preparations. We need to look at the holistic wellbeing of our athletes and the effects possible Covid-19 infections can have on them physically, emotionally and financially. Even though we might have younger ‘low risk’ athletes competing, these athletes go home where they might live with ‘high-risk individuals’.

“Also considering that our more experienced technical staff are older and at a higher risk than the players. This sport has stood the test of time and will be there way after the Covid-19 pandemic has been surpassed.

“It is time to take caution and protect our players, technical and their families,” Dulvie concluded.

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