Teens lament loss of school sports, clubs due to COVID-19

Thanks to COVID-19 precautions in Ottawa schools, there will be less of the education that goes on outside the classroom this year, and that's hitting some students hard.

Many kids rely on extracurriculars to meet friends, achieve dreams

Sofia Hanson Priebisch is starting a new school this September, but with COVID-19 restrictions she's worried she won't be able to try new clubs and meet new friends. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Sofia Henson Preibisch, who's entering Grade 9 at Canterbury High School, has counted herself among the members of a drama club, a Harry Potter club, a community helpers club and a culinary club where kids make and share recipes from around the world.

She said joining different clubs was how she made friends the last time she started at a new school.

"You get to meet new people, try new things, have new experiences, see what you really like that you wouldn't expect," she said.

But thanks to COVID-19 precautions in Ottawa schools, there will be less of the education that goes on outside the classroom this year, and that's hitting some students hard.

Team sports have been cancelled this fall, bands won't be practising in music rooms, and other clubs are going to have to find virtual alternatives to their usual meetings.

"I'm not going to get to meet new people and try as many new things as I would without COVID," Henson Preibisch said.

WATCH | More of what losing clubs can mean: 

‘It’s not going to be the same’: Student club activities curtailed by pandemic

CBC News Ottawa

7 months ago
Sofia Henson Preibisch, who’s starting Grade 9 at Canterbury High School of the Arts, says she’ll miss the clubs and social activities that are usually part of her life at school. 0:51

A place to be themselves

For Amy Simcoe, who's starting Grade 11 at Cairine Wilson Secondary School in Orléans, jazz band was where she made her best friends and the fond memories that have defined her high school years.

"I find in band I really have a place where I can be myself and I feel accepted, which I'm really going to miss, especially in this hard time," Simcoe said.

Amy Simcoe, who's entering Grade 11 at Cairine Wilson Secondary School in Orléans, said concert and jazz band was where she connected with friends through music. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Now, COVID-19 has silenced that aspect of her high school experience. Rehearsals by video chat haven't worked out because of the lag time, and it's too risky for the young musicians to get together in person.

"For a jazz band especially, most of the instruments are wind instruments. You can't play with masks, and that's a big issue. Oftentime, you're really in close contact with each other," she said.

WATCH | Fewer chances to make friends:

School bands, music programs hit hard by COVID-19 restrictions

CBC News Ottawa

7 months ago
Amy Simcoe, who’s starting Grade 11 at Cairine Wilson Secondary School, says jazz band used to be a place where she could make new friends and be herself. 0:56

Sports dreams on hold

Abdul Berete, who's entering Grade 12 at Immaculata High School, said his love of football always helped him stay focused on his school work.

"I've always wanted to play college football and go to university," Berete said. "I have a big dream: I want to make it to the NFL [or the] CFL. I put in the work every day hoping I could get somewhere."

Abdul Berete, who's starting Grade 12 at Immaculata High School, is worried college and university scouts won't get to see him compete on the football field. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

But Berete worries the loss of this football season could ruin his chances of getting noticed by college and university recruiters, and that could ultimately dash his dream of playing professionally. 

"This is taking a chance away from us for getting scouted. This is the year that scouts should be coming out. It's our final year. Everybody will be showboating, putting in all the work, all the effort in."

For now, Berete is running drills by himself, shooting videos to send to the scouts who might never see him in person.

WATCH | Losing extracurriculars can hurt career prospects:

As COVID-19 restricts school sports, students worry they’re missing out on the big leagues

CBC News Ottawa

7 months ago
Abdul Berete, who’s entering his final year at Immaculata High School, says with the football season on hold, he’s worried about missing an opportunity to be seen by professional scouts. 0:51

Missed opportunities

Lisgar Collegiate Institute teacher Mark Mysak said the downtown high school has more than 40 clubs that are all trying to figure out how to make this school year work.

"I want to run all these clubs, except it's not obvious how to navigate all of this," said Mysak, who advises the school's student council and Muslim Students Association, as well as a club promoting community engagement.

Both Ottawa's English public and Catholic boards have put competitive teams sports on hold this fall. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Mysak said the student council is trying to run a virtual welcome week that encourages new students to get involved. He said as an educator, he recognizes these activities provide an important opportunity outside the classroom for many teens.

Mysak said school sports and clubs provide a space where students from different socio-economic backgrounds can learn about the value of teamwork, and he worries not every family has the means to get their kids involved in similar activities outside the school environment.

"The concern is that because we're not able to offer a space for these clubs to meet in person, that some students will be lacking ... a peer social group or something that provides that kind of mental stability ... especially in these hard times."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


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