It's a pretty bleak time for sports in Canada--for both those who love to watch and those that love to play. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC)

Many Canadians looking forward to hearing that starting whistle

One of the many casualties of COVID-19, of course, has been sports–professional and amateur.

Much has been made of the fact that there are no pro teams to get worked up about these days, leaving many of us to turn to their televisions in search of games past.

We find out quickly that games from the past are just that.

As much as we might wish to convince ourselves otherwise, they are meaningless, except as a stab at nostalgia.

And, as Simone Signoret once noted, “Nostalgia is not what it used to be.”

The thrill is gone when the result is known.

An amateur baseball field sits dormant as the youth sports sector continues to feel the devastating effects of sweeping virus-related shutdowns. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Will Graves/File)

But lest we forget, there remains that other aspect of sports–the participant part.

It, too, has disappeared and that’s a pretty big deal in Canada.

(According to Statistics Canada: “Over one in four Canadians (27%) aged 15 and older regularly participated in sports in 2016, with hockey topping the list.

Some participate in sports sporadically, while others do so on a regular basis. Some play on teams, while others prefer more individual activities. Regardless of age, sex or place of birth, however, a physically active lifestyle, including playing sports, can have a profoundly positive impact on the health and well-being of Canadians.”)

Millions of Canadian kids are wondering when things will return to normal, which means for many of them having some ice below their skates. (Shutterstock)

Earlier this month, the federal government announced it would provide $72 million in relief funding to the country’s sport sector, which has seen myriad events cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a lovely idea of course, but just how antsy are Canadians to start participating again?

A wide-ranging public opinion survey conducted last week and published on Thursday suggests that while Canadians want to get back to organized sports and group physical activities post-pandemic, it may take time for some to feel comfortable doing so.

Among those who regularly played organized sports or took part in group physical activities, 42 per cent said they would be comfortable playing again within a few weeks of distancing restrictions being lifted while 20 per cent said they would return within a few months. Twenty-seven per cent said it would take them six months or more to feel comfortable.

The Abacus Data online survey also found that a majority of the 1,800 Canadian adult respondents believed it will be important for Canadians to play organized sports when distancing restrictions are lifted because of the impact they have on mental and physical health.

Among other things, the survey confirmed the Statistics Canada data that one in four Canadian adults (27 per cent) regularly took part in an organized sport or group physical activity before the pandemic. 

Not much else one can say, eh? (Illustration by Steve Tzemis/CBC)

It also found younger Canadians were much more likely to take part — with 43 per cent of those aged 18 to 29 and 32 per cent of those aged 30 to 44 saying they played an organized sport or took part in a group physical activity before the pandemic.

As physical distancing restrictions are lifted, many said that sport and physical activity will be an important part of healing. 

Ninety per cent of respondents said organized sports and group physical activity will be important in helping society rebuild and recover from the pandemic with 38 per cent saying it would be very important and 52 per cent calling it important. Ten per cent said they did not think it would be important.

Among those who regularly played organized sports before the pandemic, 54 per cent believed it was very important.

However, 37 per cent of respondents said people shouldn’t be allowed to play organized sports or take part in group physical activities — when distancing restrictions are lifted — until there is a vaccine.

Abacus says the margin of error is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size.

Full results of the poll can be found here.

With files from The Canadian Press, Abacus Data, Statistics Canada

Categories: Health, Sports
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