Youth athletes' mental health hampered by community sport cancellations in pandemic

The pandemic has kept many of us stuck inside of our homes. But for young athletes, that isolation was only amplified as youth sports leagues cancelled full seasons. On Thursday, Jumpstart Charities received a $12 million commitment from Canadian Tire to help rebuild community sports across the country.

Jumpstart Charities gets $12M boost from Canadian Tire to help rebuild youth sports

People play a game of shinny on Meech Lake in Chelsea, Que., in December. Many studies have shown that kids' mental health is negatively affected by community sport cancellations caused by the pandemic. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The pandemic has kept many of us stuck inside of our homes.

But for young athletes, that isolation has been amplified as youth sports leagues across the country have cancelled full seasons due to COVID-19. Many studies show the lack of access to sport negatively affected kids' mental health over the past 11 months.

Without access to sports, some youth have turned further toward screens, where they can watch professional athletes play the same games they yearn for while stuck at home.

According to a recent Ipsos study, 78 per cent of parents who say the pandemic has had a strong impact on their kids' participation in sport report that child as feeling lonely, while only 64 per cent of parents who say their kids' sports have not been strongly impacted report loneliness.

WATCH | CBC Sports' Jamie Strashin on how youth sports are affected by pandemic:

The impact on kids of having sports cancelled by pandemic

3 years ago
Duration 5:59
Featured VideoThe COVID-19 pandemic has forced the cancellation of most children’s sports and it’s having physical and psychological impacts.

That first group is also more likely to report their children finding it difficult to reduce stress and anxiety.

"This is a for-now thing. This is not going to be something that's forever," sports psychiatrist Dr. Carla Waters told CBC Sports' Jamie Strashin. 

Waters says she's repeatedly heard from families struggling with the loss of sport during the pandemic.

"We need to use this as an opportunity to fulfill our identities more, not just be that unidimensional athlete but also explore whatever else brings you joy and happiness and leisure," she said.

Over 80 per cent of community sport organizations say they're worried about offering programs for the rest of 2021, while 52 per cent stare down permanent closure as a result of the pandemic.

Canadian Tire, Jumpstart helping community sports.

On Thursday, Canadian Tire Corporation committed an additional $12 million to Jumpstart Charities Sport Relief Fund, building on $8 million donated in 2020 to help rebuild community sports across the country.

"With Canadian Tire and Jumpstart's support, we can help safeguard the return to sport and play from playground to podium, ultimately helping kids, athletes and communities not simply overcome this challenge, but emerge even stronger," said Catriona Le May Doan, a two-time Olympian, Canada's chef de mission for Beijing 2022 and the CEO of Sport Calgary.

The organizations say the donation will go toward building new accessible spaces for sport, individual child grants, a new community volunteer program and expanded play-from-home resources.


  • A previous version of this article stated the commitment was $40 million. It should have read $12 million.
    Feb 11, 2021 1:08 PM ET

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