With school just around the corner, after-school activities are now open for registration and in minor sports, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt in varying ways.

From prolonged stoppages in play to competing just within small cohorts, young athletes have dealt with a roller coaster since March of 2020.

The president of the Golden Suns Athletic Association in Taber, Kevin Serfas, says while many families are excited to get back into rinks and onto fields, some have realized that sports might not be for them.

“I think the biggest place that we’re going to lose kids is in that fringe area, where they could do with or without it.”

Serfas says while hockey will still be hugely popular, he believes smaller towns are going to feel the impact of lower registration this hockey season.

“There’s probably going to be some conversations in the surrounding areas and towns about, you know, ‘We’ve got six kids and you’ve got three kids, and somebody else has got five kids, you know we’re going to have to put these kids together and have them play out of one common area in order for them to have somewhere to play,’” he said.

Serfas says he’s heard from smaller hockey associations in Alberta who are down as much as 10 to 40 per cent in registrations when compared to 2019.

But that decrease isn’t being felt everywhere.

Lethbridge Little League saw a drop of about 60 per cent in registrations between 2019 and 2020, but rebounded to nearly 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels for the regular season this June and July.

Lethbridge Little League Baseball Association (LLLBA) president Travis Oberg says that rebound was not quite as strong for the organization’s four-week tournament season in August, but he believes that was impacted by the lifting of some travel restrictions.

“We’re really happy with how the regular season numbers bounced back,” he said.

“We understand parents wanting to travel a little bit more for the month of August — spend a little more family time — so we recognize that tournament season is down. It’s not just down in Lethbridge, it’s down across Alberta.”

Oberg says he expects to see another uptick in registration for LLLBA’s fall ball programming.

An increase in demand is also expected by Lethbridge and Taber KidSport. Board chair Genny Hunter-Barr says they went from giving funding to about 500 kids in 2019 to just 117 in 2020.

“This year we’ve so far only funded about 50 kids, at about $7,000, but we do have more applications coming in; hockey is starting soon, soccer, gymnastics,” Hunter-Barr said.

Tryouts for Lethbridge Minor Hockey are expected to start immediately, while Lethbridge Soccer Association has assessments set to start in September.

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