Manitoba's pandemic restrictions hurt kids who can't play organized sports, parent says

Some Manitoba parents say one-on-one exercise training won't help their children who are struggling without team sports, and they're calling on the province to let kids play again.

Fitness centre owners say one-on-one training is expensive, regulations for reopening are unclear

Jasmine Percival said her five-year-old daughter Mackenzie is struggling emotionally and suffers from anxiety because she hasn't been able to practice gymnastics due to COVID-19. New public health orders in Manitoba will only allow one-on-one personal training and instructions for indoor sports. (Jasmine Percival)

A Winnipeg mother says one-on-one personal training won't help her children, who haven't been able to play team sports because of COVID-19, and she's calling on the province to let kids play again.

Jasmine Percival has three children, and two of them are very active. Her 13-year-old daughter, Alexis, plays hockey, while her five-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, takes gymnastics.

"I would say the lack of physical activity has definitely affected both of them," Percival said.

Her five-year-old has been suffering from anxiety ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began last March, Percival said.

"During this year of COVID-19 she has developed obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety, and the one thing that often helps children with that is sport, and we can't do that," she said.

The Manitoba government is allowing gyms to reopen on Friday, with 25 per cent capacity. Indoor facilities may also operate, including rinks, yoga and gymnastics clubs, but only for one-on-one instruction.

Mackenzie Percival, 5, misses going to gymnastics classes. Gymnastic classes can only be taught one-on-one for now. (Jasmine Percival)

Percival said those new rules won't help her daughters because she can't afford one-on-one training.

"The one-on-one that they are now offering for gymnastics is really not feasible for us, or any five-year-old really," Percival said.

"I mean the reason kids play sports is for the social aspect as well, right? There's a lot of learning that goes on in a group setting, and gymnastics is an individual sport, but you're still with a group of peers and still have fun and laugh and giggle." 

High anxiety

Percival said her 13-year-old is also struggling because she hasn't been playing hockey. Hockey Winnipeg has cancelled the season due to the pandemic.

"Her anxiety has been extremely high, and being active is something that really helps us control our mental health."

Percival said if gyms can reopen, then team sports for kids should be allowed.

"First of all the [kids] are all together at school, and they're doing just fine," she said. "So personally, I think that the measures they have in place [in schools] can also be applied to activities."

Manitoba health officials said Wednesday that parents can be active with their children in other ways.

"There's plenty of opportunity for youth to go outside and exercise and partake in activities. We've gone to community centres, I've gone to community centres with my kids skating," said Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba's acting deputy chief public health officer.

Atwal said the province is taking a slow and measured approach when it comes to reopening gyms and team sports.

"The more interactions we do, the greater the risk of transmission," Atwal said. "We know there are cases floating around and we have to have a slow opening to be able to see where our cases counts go to."

'Lot of frustration'

"The one-on-one aspect is very selective, so people who can pay $60, $70, $80 an hour for personal training are the only ones who can access it," said Paul Dyck, who owns Stark Strength gym in Winnipeg.

"It's going to make it a lot tougher for people to afford those rates," he said.

His gym normally offers mostly group classes to his 200 members. For now he will continue offering Zoom classes.

He plans to reopen his gym on Tuesday for personal training sessions by appointment only.

"There's a lot of frustration among our members," he said. "Talking to our clients is tough. They want to come in and there's nothing we can do."

9Round in Winnipeg owner Michael Russell says he doesn't know if the latest pandemic rules will allow his gym to reopen. (Tyson Koschik)

Michael Russell is also unsure if he can reopen his 9Round fitness facilities in Winnipeg, which only offer boxing training with an instructor.

He's not sure if his business is classified as a group class and calls the provincial rules vague.

"We are in the grey area," he said. "Depending on how you read what the government put out, we can open or we can't."

Russell has no problem operating at 25 per cent capacity, but he isn't sure if that means he can open since he offers individual training sessions but within a group setting, he said.

"I can easily have one person at each station, bags are cleaned in between," he said. "Because everyone is doing something different at each station is that considered group or one-on-one?"

Russell and other gym owners like Dyck are seeking clarity from Manitoba health officials.

Russell hopes he can reopen by Friday as many of his clients are eager to get back to their exercise routines.

"If you can afford one-on-one training, great, but a lot of families can't afford that one-on-one right now," he said.

"That sense of community is being missed as well as the exercise."


  • We initially reported that public health orders only allow people to play sports outside with members of same household. In fact, people can gather in groups of up to five people, and starting Friday, public health orders allow outdoor practices and games.
    Feb 11, 2021 7:45 AM CT
  • We initially reported that Hockey Manitoba has cancelled its season. In fact, Hockey Winnipeg cancelled its season.
    Feb 11, 2021 10:12 AM CT


Nelly Gonzalez is an award winning reporter/editor at CBC Manitoba based in Winnipeg. She's been working with CBC since 2011 and has 14 years reporting experience in Winnipeg. She began working at CBC as a videographer covering stories in Brandon before relocating to Winnipeg in 2012.

With files from Marianne Klowak.