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At last, we can let the kids play


Kudos to sports leaders in the NWT for giving youth athletes a chance to show their stuff this summer after missing out on track and field the last two years.

After deciding not to hold the NWT Track and Field Championships in Hay River next month – a decision made in January before the flood — for a third straight year, some of those involved with track and field have elected to host regional events in Fort Smith, Yellowknife and Inuvik later in summer, that will allow youth and families to shake off two years lost to Covid-19, and give them a shot at a bigger prize: a chance to compete in the Canada Summer Games in Niagara Region, Ont., this August.

It’s admittedly personal for me. I’m no athlete but my niece is. The last time Hay River hosted the track and field championships, in 2019, she won her aggregate age category at 11 years old. There hasn’t been any track and field competitions since.

My niece is a resilient, now teenaged girl but I can’t help but think of what might have been had Covid-19 not intruded on our lives. What opportunities were lost with no Arctic Winter Games and other youth sporting events these past two years? How much richer would her trophy case be had she been able to compete.

Children generally got the worst of it during Covid. I look at my own kids and wonder about all things they missed out on and won’t carry with them into adulthood. Before Covid we had dance, figure skating, art camp and music lessons. All gone. Not to mention the 100-plus days with no school.

And the missed family visits. Covid has been very hard on kids with family and friends living outside the Northwest Territories. Families faced a daunting barrier long after adults were free to travel without quarantining at home. Many families with kids under 12 didn’t see their grandparents during Covid.

I suppose we should be thankful that some of the wackier edicts didn’t last. I pray another day doesn’t come where we find ourselves shutting down playgrounds again. Or advising parents to isolate young children if they tested positive for Covid.

Much is starting to come back but I can’t help but confess how difficult I find it breaking out of our Covid cocoon. All the fear and anxiety pent up over years – it’s been hard to let it go. As parents, we must but even with the realization that Covid is not as dangerous as it once was – especially to children – it’s hard to overcome that reptilian instinct to recoil at disease.

So, we must overcome together, step by step, event by event. Learn to be among each other again and feel safe – as we should. The last two-plus years have been a wash so we must make up for it the best we can. And that starts with giving children opportunities again, whether it be in sports, arts or by interacting in class.

That track and field is coming back, at least in some fashion, is a positive step. We must continue toward bringing back normality for our kids. If we can have Stanley Cup playoff games with packed stands, we can let the children play and grow again.