The Ontario government has decided to resume all extracurricular activities in schools immediately, a decision that comes amid the easing COVID-19 restrictions in the province as the omicron surge appears to be slowing down.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce, a proponent of after-school sports and clubs, said school boards resuming all extracurricular activities are his key priority.
Humber College Vice President for Student Engagement Jason Hunter said he is happy with the province’s decision considering the current COVID-19 scenario, and he supports it.
He said being a sports fan and a father, he understands the importance of this decision.
Hunter said the decision is not just about extracurricular activities. It includes the relationships that come from those activities, the social engagement, and the feeling of being a part of a team.
“We really want people to be back,” he said.
Hunter said to ensure safety at these sporting events, the college will check the individual’s vaccination status and ensure social distancing and masking are in place.
The government’s decision includes resuming high contact sports like basketball, volleyball, and hockey that were sidelined because of the COVID-19 restrictions.
Current restrictions have allowed sports like ultimate Frisbee, which involves less contact, but banned basketball, hockey, and wrestling.
Brett Pearce, a Humber Hawks basketball player, is happy with the Ontario government’s decision to resume extracurricular activities.
“Basketball has always been a way for me to calm myself down, clear my head and step away from all the struggles I am dealing with in my personal life,” said Pearce, who is a first-year guard.
He said he and his teammates didn’t practice for almost a month. They were all desperate to return as it was tough staying out this long as they had missed a lot of action during this closure.
“It is important for us to get back to work and start working towards becoming a national champion, the mentality we had preached all season,” Pearce said.
Men’s basketball head coach Omar Miles said it was challenging for him. Being there for his own family and his student-athletes at the same time was tough for him.
The coach said they have missed out on a lot of team building moments, including practices and team dinners.
He said the basketball team lost six players this year due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The continuous transition between this uncertain opening and closures during the pandemic has affected the athletes physically and mentally.
“It is like you ramp up, shape up, but then suddenly you go cold turkey,” Miles said.
A research on the global prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents during COVID-19 shows that youth faced increased problems like anxiety, depression and eating disorders during the span of COVID-19 since 2020.
Ontario’s occupational therapist Bindia Darshan believes extracurricular activities complement what students learn in school are crucial for their success.
She said it is important to resume extracurricular activities as it is associated with student’s self-efficacy, satisfaction, holistic development and practical skill acquisition that includes emotional regulation and networking abilities.