The youth in the North are bored and one of the best ways to alleviate that boredom and keep our youth out of trouble is through sports.

There is no shortage of youth sports programs throughout the North, but unfortunately they are very costly.

Let’s take hockey as an example. A young person living under the poverty line is not going to be able to join a minor hockey team because subsidy programs like Sport North only cover a portion of the cost and only after the full amount of the registration fee is paid for up front. They’re often priced out of the sport by expensive hockey equipment – the sticks alone can sell for over $300.

Many parents don’t even know that sport subsidy programs exist and even if they do, they may not have the capacity to take that extra step and apply for such programs. This means a huge percentage of youth in the North are left out in the cold. We could have the next Wayne Gretzky right here in one of our Northern communities, but that young person might be held back simply because they can’t afford to play.

Being held back from being able to participate in sports due to poverty greatly affects a young person’s confidence. Knowing that they are just as good, if not better, at a sport than the kid next to them and knowing that they are not chosen to go to an out-of-town tournament because they can’t afford it will diminish a young person’s desire to play the game.

It doesn’t take much to see that the only thing coming between one person’s ability to participate in sports over another person’s is privilege.

This glimpse, this tip of the iceberg, into the inequality within the sports circle causes resentments to rise within the youth that are not included on the roster. This is more than an organizational flaw, it’s a systemic disgrace. More outreach and assistance for families that require assistance to fund their child’s determination to play sports is very much needed.

Often the only way for a young person to be able to participate in sports is within the school system, but what happens when a young person has dropped out of school and is living below the poverty line? It is very difficult to find employment as a young person without experience and so many youth find themselves left out of opportunities completely. As the saying goes, they’ve fallen through the cracks.

They have little to no opportunities keep them from boredom and this is where the real trouble begins. Boredom can lead to mischief and mischief often leads to criminal activity. Many young offenders don’t take the court process seriously, knowing that their records will be erased once they become an adult. Oftentimes they will miss their court appearances and get hung up on arrest warrants for misdemeanors and breaches of probation, which are hardly reasons to be heavily penalized but this is how youths are saddled with long long rap sheets.

The courts themselves are unsure of their own caseloads, lawyers are scrambling to keep up with their clients, probation officers are passing youth onto diversion programs and all of these parties are confused about the process because the entire system is bottlenecked. Are we really expecting our youth to follow through with court orders when the directions given to them are unclear?

The youth are finding themselves trapped in a system that is severely ineffective. They know that it is unfair that money will allow one person to play the game while another person has to sit on the sidelines regardless of their talent and skill.

Let’s work hard as a community to keep our youth engaged, especially the ones who are unable to access expensive sports clubs or who are not on the honour roles at school because they are the ones that need it the most. If we want our communities to be healthy, safe and just it starts with taking care of our youth and providing them with a level playing field.

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