For the past two years, young athletes have dealt with the harsh realities of the COVID-19 pandemic canceling or pausing sports several times.

Once again sports in Ontario have been paused for at least 21 days due to the latest restrictions that came into effect on January 5, 2021.

Cash Lappage, a 13-year-old Dryden resident, who plays hockey, and football has found it very difficult to not play sports.

“When I can’t play sports I don’t get to see my friends, I’m all cooped up in my room all the time. It’s definitely difficult not being able to go out and do the activities that I’ve spent my life doing and that I’ve grown accustomed to,” Cash said.

Cash participates in sports not only for the physical or social aspect, but to relieve stress, improve his mental health, and now that all has been taken from him.

“A big part is it’s a great way for me to express myself, sports are always a place where I can be myself, which I find is great. Also, it’s big for your mental health, I find for me it’s sports, and it helps take away stress.”

With the continuous pausing and canceling of sports, Cash believes this continuation will have future impacts.

“It really is maddening. It can be really upsetting at times when you get back to doing something that you really want to do just to have it taken away from you again, and again, over and over. It’s just really difficult to comprehend."

Shawn Lappage, the father to three kids including Cash has seen firsthand the struggles his children have faced not being able to play.

“A definite increase in non-productive energy, an increase in screen time. Where we live at this time of the year it’s pretty hard to get outside for physical activity. We’ve only been shut down for a week, and you can already see it wear on the kids,” said Shawn.

He hopes the provincial government will stay true to its word and resume sports on January 26, 2022, which is when the Modified Step Two is scheduled to end.

The Dryden resident spoke not only on the future impacts for the kids but also for the recreational facilities, or the leagues they play in.

“Just let the kids play. Between sports lockouts and online learning kids are really missing out on a developmental time of their lives physically, mentally, and even socially,”

“Numbers are down in all sports, not just hockey. I think some facilities that are going to be hit hard with these closures, maybe they have to shut their doors, maybe arenas start taking out their ice, and even if the government lets us go back to play there might be no place to go,” Shawn says.

On January 3, 2022, Hockey Northwestern Ontario issued a statement pausing its programming due to the latest restrictions.

Ontario is one of a few provinces that has closed its doors to recreational facilities, which in the end has put a pause on sports. Provinces to the west such as Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and even Alberta have implemented restrictions that didn’t involve pausing or canceling sports.