Sports bodies aching after federal cutbacks

Bradley Bouzane
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AMATEUR SPORTS FUNDING Loss of summer grants means fewer summer jobs and a greater chance of program reductions

Federal cuts to the summer career placement grants has provincial sports groups in a bit of a pinch.

For the first time ever, minor baseball in St. John's will have to get by without the help of students looking for some summer cash and a few months outdoors.

Ken Dawe, the executive director for Baseball Newfoundland and Labrador, was informed Tuesday by Service Canada that the applications for summer students in the area were not approved, as was the case for many sectors, not just sports.

Federal cuts to the summer career placement grants has provincial sports groups in a bit of a pinch.

For the first time ever, minor baseball in St. John's will have to get by without the help of students looking for some summer cash and a few months outdoors.

Ken Dawe, the executive director for Baseball Newfoundland and Labrador, was informed Tuesday by Service Canada that the applications for summer students in the area were not approved, as was the case for many sectors, not just sports.

He said Corner Brook was especially hard hit by the denial from the feds.

"Corner Brook minor baseball has a huge problem because they usually hire six or eight summer students (through grants) and they also hire other students from their own revenue and they run their daytime program five days a week," he said.

"Without those students, how do you run a daytime program? That's going to be a big problem for our sport or any sport that have had their applications rejected," said Dawe.

Many other local baseball associations were also turned down, including Northwest Avalon, which could be devastating, he said.

Because it's also a daytime program, the lack of summer students could result in the program collapsing.

Grand Falls-Windsor was given five positions for baseball this summer, but all applications for their soccer programs were denied.

Russ Jackson, executive director of Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association, cannot comprehend the selection process used to determine which sports and regions get funding.

"The main issue all the sports have - we were talking (Wednesday) - is that we all submitted our applications pretty much identical because it's an identical system (for each sport)," Jackson said. "They ask the same questions and we're all looking for the same things for our camps, coaches and provincial teams."

Jackson said provincial volleyball programs were crushed by the news and expects to see major changes for the sport as the summer season approaches.

"We're hit very hard by this," he said. "We usually run all our provincial team programs, our summer camps and our beach volleyball tour (to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) with the students.

"(The tour) is a big part of our feeder system that for the kids as they get to university and have them stay active all summer. We usually take about 100 kids on the road, but we'll have to cut that number and have less teams."

From 14 to two

In previous years, as many as 14 students have been hired to help run volleyball operations across the province, but that number has been reduced to just two, with both positions slotted for Gander.

While the Gander grants are appreciated, Jackson said the need is more dire in the St. John's region, where more than 50 per cent of all volleyball grants were usually funnelled.

Other sports, however, would like to have even a pair of students work for them this summer to make operations run smoother.

The provincial basketball association was not given any summer grants this year, and they're not alone.

Sport Newfoundland and Labrador and the provincial gymnastics association were also shut out of federal funding for their summer programs.

Jackson said developing young athletes is going to get tougher if federal funding is not passed down in the summer because organizations cannot depend entirely on the help of volunteers to get things running.

"For elite athletes, you start at 14 or 15 and you try to keep them in the loop until they have to go to university and it's hard to do that when you don't have any help," he said.

"We don't have the money in our budget to hire anybody (in place of the grants), so we would have to task more onto the volunteers, which is extremely difficult."

Dawe also worried about burning out volunteers, who, if they were willing, would have to pick up the workload of a 40-hour work week for each student grant that was denied.

But at the end of the day, it comes down to the survival of summer sports and employment for the students, Dawe said.

"These grants are needed. It helps (students) financially to go back to school and it also gives them work experience they can use in the future," he said.

bbouzane@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Baseball Newfoundland and Labrador, Service Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Volleyball Association

Geographic location: St. John's, Corner Brook, Northwest Avalon Nova Scotia New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador

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