Limited space for extracurricular activities in the city and school gyms remaining closed for community use is affecting kids’ mental health, says one local coach.
Vanessa Lodge, basketball coach and vice-president of the development program at the Guelph Youth Basketball Association, said between the GYBA and the Guelph Knights organization, there are nearly 1,000 players unable to participate in sports, which is affecting their mental health, affecting their skill development, increasing their screen time at home and contributing to obesity.
“If you take into account all the sport and recreation programs in Guelph, almost every school-aged kid is affected,” said Lodge.
“We're seeing that other communities are opening up their facilities for community use, but Guelph is not at this time."
The UGDSB’s community use of schools program is currently on hold and the WCDSB said it is currently not allowing permits but will reconsider again in November.
With high vaccination rates in Guelph and individual clubs and recreation programs abiding by Public Health guidelines, Lodge says it doesn’t make sense to keep school gyms closed for community space.
She said parents are now stepping up trying to find their own facilities for their children.
“I probably get a dozen emails on a weekly basis with parents asking, when is your program going to start? My son or daughter is really looking forward to it. And I just have to keep telling them, ‘I'm sorry I don't know yet,’” said Lodge who is also a site manager for Active Scholars in Guelph.
Lodge said there are numerous sports and recreation organizations that offer programming to youth but have few options of spaces to choose.
“There's only one indoor facility in the City of Guelph and that's the West End Community Centre and they're giving what they can. We’re really at the mercy of the school boards, and their use of their facilities,” said Lodge.
“A number of our kids have played outside with outdoor courts where they can, but by the time parents are able to get them there, it's almost dark.”
She said the GYBA uses space at the University of Guelph but it's limited because the university has its own athletes. “They've been really gracious and giving us whatever they can,” said Lodge.
“Not all community organizations are able to access that and so that's one gym, one facility that we're able to use,” said Lodge.
“There's only a couple churches with some indoor gyms in terms of the other facilities,” said Lodge.
She said the GYBA had over 600 youth enrolled before the pandemic. “We're closer to 300 right now but if we had access to schools, we'd be able to get more kids in and we could get back closer up to that 600 number,” said Lodge.