“Sports is kind of like a stress reliever for me. I go, I have my sports system, my teammates and it’s definitely a fun activity to do. It’s a break from everything else. I go there to have fun. I don’t think about anything else, I think about the sport and it’s just a wonderful atmosphere,” says Kellyann Vauthier.
Vauthier is one of many local athletes that had their season altered or cancelled due the pandemic. The hockey player decided to make her return to the ice this past winter, only to have the season come to an abrupt end as Quebec entered the second wave of the pandemic. Vauthier, however, was appreciative of the time she was able to get.
“It was so much fun,” she says. “Especially because it was at the point of the pandemic where you couldn’t go anywhere else so that was really the only time I really got out of the house. It was really good for my mental health. Then I remember being told that we weren’t going to be able to practice anymore and that was really hard.”
Vauthier relies on sports for both her physical and mental health. She says that playing hockey is one of her biggest stress relievers. Socializing with teammates is another benefit. Communicating by social media with her teammates helped her mental health, but it was not the same as being together on the ice.
A recent Université de Montréal study shows that participation sports can benefit children. The study looked at if children between the ages of 6 and 10 participated in sports or physical activity and looked at their emotional difficulties at age 12. The study concludes that children who were the least active often had more difficulty.
“Certainly getting outside is good for our mental health,” says psychologist Dr. Eric Morris. “Exercise is obviously good for our mental health, having some sort of structure to our day improves our mental health.”
The idea of getting out of the house and participating in some form of physical activity has the ability to distract a person from their emotions and the pandemic.
“We generally want to be sitting with our emotions, tolerating the emotion, accepting the emotion so if part of the goal of exercise is ‘I don’t have to feel emotions’ or ‘I can distract myself,’ that’s probably not the healthiest way to think about it,” he says.
Sports give people the opportunity to socialize and meet new people, something that has been lacking during the pandemic.
Jim Beis is the mayor of Pierrefonds-Roxboro, and witnessed the positive effects and importance of sports as his two youngest children played baseball last year.
“I saw the impact it had on the children because once again they were able to be with their peers, participating in something that was physical activity, but also the social part of it by being with kids and just having fun like we know sports to be,” Beis says.
As for this summer, the intent for the Beis family is hoping for the same: to go out on the field and have fun.
“When you say that it is a possibility (of playing sports), they’re anxious because they too now realize how important it was in their lives and now even the potential playing of sports this summer is more encouraging for them ,” Beis says.
Beis also notes that there are safe ways of doing sports, and last summer showed it.
“Kids need an outlet, and sport can be managed in a way that protects them within that bubble as we’ve seen from last summer, I think we are better prepared to do more this summer than we did last,” he says.
Many winter sports have been impossible due to the number of COVID-19 cases and the fact that activities are done indoors. Summer sports, however, have had an easier time due to being able to socially distance outdoors. Last summer, sports got off to a late start and this summer appears to be more promising.
“There’s no rush to get out there, but we suspect that if things continue to improve the way they are now, we may be on the field by mid-May, which is when we’re usually on the field,” says Theo Michael, a representative of Club Baseball St-Laurent, as discussions continue with Baseball Quebec. More probable, is the beginning of June.”
The health protocols that were put in place last season which include players distancing off the field and the umpire moving from behind the plate to behind the pitcher, are likely to stay in place.
“I think, I mean look – as a parent, as a volunteer, as just a regular citizen, I think it’s important for the kids to be out there and enjoying themselves. They’re kids, after all,” says Michael, who coaches as well. “It’s important for them, and I’ll tell you, I think it’s important for the adults too, to be able to see that.”
Vauthier, while upset at the cancellation of her hockey season, is just glad that some sports can resume.
“I’m really happy for them and I would tell them to not to take it for granted because you never know when Corona’s going to change,” says Vauthier. “Enjoy going to each practice. I know sometimes we complain about going to practices, but it’s such a good experience and we have to make the most of it.”