The impact of cancelling youth sports in New Brunswick

A hockey net rests against the boards of an ice rink at the Grant Harvey Centre in Fredericton, N.B. on Oct. 29, 2021. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

Hockey rinks remain untouched, volleyball nets lie in a pile on the floor and basketballs are on the ground instead of swooshing through hoops. A casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic – youth sports is on hold as cases soar.

The province of New Brunswick entered Level 3 of the COVID-19 winter plan last week due to the increase in hospitalizations. One group that was affected by this move was young athletes, who cannot participate in their sports for the foreseeable future.

“The younger generation has had everything taken away,” said Melany Lyons, the mother of Brock, a twelve-year-old hockey player.

The Government of New Brunswick released a statement on Dec. 13 regarding organized sports and the move to Level 3 that said all organized sports for children under 12 are not permitted under the mandatory order. 

“These kids are not able to use what ordinarily would be an outlet for not only their energy but also that escape to enjoy what they love. For some kids, sports are even their way of escaping negative family environments,” said Lyons. “Overall, it’s been terrible … These kids got two vaccines under the promise they would get their lives back and that’s been a lie.” 

She said Brock, who plays with the U13 AAA hockey team, hates not being able to be on the ice and practice. Although their family has tried to utilize any possible ice time or separate clinics, she said it’s still not giving him the opportunities to excel at a sport he loves. 

“There have been so many tournaments cancelled and missed opportunities for hockey in our house that it’s mind blowing.”

In December, a petition was organized by Yves Arsenault with the hopes of achieving 15,000 signatures to fight for the return of youth athletics in New Brunswick and there are currently 13,007 signatures. 

Peter Griffin, executive director of Fundy Soccer N.B., wrote in an email that their biggest challenge was  “ensuring our members are well informed of the processes and policies as they change frequently.”

Griffin said Fundy Soccer keeps the public informed constantly but not being able to play games or have scrimmages is frustrating for the players and their parents.

“This is the nature of competitive sports programs,” he wrote. “We work closely with our coaches and players to help them deal with the mental challenges these disruptions have caused.”

While kids await sports to start up again, they must practice in their houses or outside in the cold to make sure their skills don’t go to waste. 

Little to no detail has been provided concerning return to action plans, practice availability or the status of vaccinated children. 

I feel the government is going to have much bigger issues on their hands with this generation and how all of these restrictions are truly affecting their mental, physical and social well being,” said Lyons. “They are our future and are being penalized.”