For as long as Taegan Allingham can remember, sports have been a part of him and he’s been a part of them.
“I never though that they would never be there,” said the 14-year-old Sask Selects football and Bantam A Buffalos hockey player from Regina.
Saskatchewan’s most recent coronavirus pandemic restrictions — which limit youth sports to small groups of eight at masked classes and practices — have been especially tough on him.
“Knowing that going to practice that we’re not going to be able to play games or going to work out knowing that it’s more long-term instead of being able to go out there and play football against someone… it’s mentally challenging,” Allingham said.
Sports in Saskatchewan were put on hold in the spring as the pandemic took hold. They restarted, modified, some as mini leagues, in the summer. But as cases climbed and cold weather settled in, they’ve been severely scaled back.
“It’s a rollercoaster of events and it sucks,” Allingham said. “They need to figure out what the heck they’re going to do because it starting to become a little much.”
His dad, Patrick Allingham, has been witnessing the toll on his son, two daughters and other kids he coaches.
“My last hockey practice, my first group really struggled,” Patrick said. “I had to put the coach wanting to yell at them, realizing the situation, I had them all take a knee and had to say, ‘Guys, I get it.’ ”
Salima Meherali, a nursing professor at the University of Alberta, has been synthesizing studies from around the world about the impact social restrictions are having on children and youth. She noted researchers have observed high levels of stress and anxiety as well as depression.
The routine of sport is an essential coping mechanism for the demographic as the pandemic wears on, said Meherali, adding having those confusingly upended does not help.
“They do not know what is going to happen tomorrow. The one day they are having a kind of regular routine, the other day or after a week, their routine gets changed,” she said, adding having open communication is key with young athletes is key right now.
Providing that constant is one reason Kim Delesoy, owner of Spirit of the Dragon, said her martial arts studio has been trying to adapt to the changing situation and rules. It proactively brought in masks before they were mandatory, installed a divider, reduced classes sizes and enhanced cleaning.
“We can’t even count the comments we’ve had from parents about the difference in their children once they were able to get back to physical activity,” she said. “It just keeps everybody a lot healthier, both physically and mentally.”
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