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Burlington Soccer Club back in the swing of things after pandemic

BSC has about 16,000 registrations per year
Samantha Stewart, director of marketing and community relations with the Burlington Soccer Club, said the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more clear the importance of exercise and sports on the mental health of children and youth.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Burlington Soccer Club, (BSC) along with many other businesses and organizations, had to stop all in-person activities to curb the spread of the virus. 

With pandemic restrictions in the past, the BSC is learning how the years-long adaptations it made as a result are impacting its players, staff and wider community.

“There were a lot of things we had to implement so we truly had no expectations. We thought the return to pre-pandemic levels was going to take us more than three years to achieve,” said Samantha Stewart, director of marketing and community relations with BSC. 

No one could have predicted what was going to happen once the pandemic was over and how that would affect participation at the club, Stewart said.

BSC returned back to its regular programming in 2021 with some modifications. At that point the club wasn’t seeing registrations return to pre-pandemic numbers, but over the next year the number of registrations increased and the club returned to its previous participation levels in 2022.

“We were incredibly grateful for that,” Stewart said.

The BSC has made changes to its indoor programs since the pandemic, including implementing standardized sanitization measures.

“People are far more comfortable coming back into the domes to watch and support their kids. Even our adult leagues, their spouses, friends or whomever coming to support them. We’ve seen that return,” Stewart said. “It’s great to see the culture of football back again.”

As the warmer months approach, staff and players at BSC are getting excited to get back onto the pitch.

“We’re all getting in that mindset, we can’t wait to just be outside and engaging again. We saw that in 2023 and so we cannot wait for 2024 summer,” Stewart said. 

Every year BSC does a survey, and the latest results indicated parents were happy to have their children back playing soccer with some responses that said they didn’t realize how significantly their children were out of shape.

The adjustment for the youngest children in BSC was the most significant, Stewart said based on her observations.

“Those are pandemic children. So, they have not been exposed to the large group settings so for them that was the biggest adjustment and you would see it in the first session. It took them a little while to warm up to the crowds,” Stewart said.

Stewart has always been a proponent of exercise and sports for everyone. 

“I think you really notice the mental health implications it has on kids. Just getting outside makes a world of difference to everybody’s mental health,” she said. “There’s that factor but we’re amplifying it by having a team around you, and a group of people who are working toward a similar goal.”

Learning to compromise, work in a team and leadership skills are just some of the takeaways Stewart has noticed children and youth getting from playing sports.

“I think all the soft skills, you really see the impact it has because the kids weren’t in group settings so they weren’t able to work on things in those environments,” she said.

The BSC has about 16,000 registrations each year, which Stewart understands is a lot of people to communicate important information to. Along with the changing rules and regulations from the province during the pandemic, the club has learned the importance of clear and concise communication with its members.

“It’s important to have open lines (of communication) at all times and (members) are aware of those because, at the end of the day, we don’t deliver soccer for us. We do it for the community,” Stewart said. 

Children and youth having the opportunity to exercise and interact with their peers has a significant impact on their mental health, according to Tracy Vaillancourt, a coach and education and psychology professor at the University of Ottawa.

Some studies published recently have reinforced the long-known link between exercise and depression.

“Having kids move is probably the best thing you can do for their mental health,” said Vaillancourt. 

Another important component of team sports helps children and youth develop self-regulation.

“Self-regulation is a really good core skill for social development that is linked to mental health. Team sports are really good at getting kids to help manage their self-regulatory development and skills,” Vaillancourt said. 

The peer-to-peer interaction in sports meets children’s fundamental need to belong, she added.

Children and youth being socially isolated is detrimental to their mental health and the pandemic forced them to stay home for long periods of time.

“What studies have shown is that there was an uptick in poor mental health during the pandemic and there is evidence to suggest that was also linked to not just the stressor of being in a global pandemic but also, specifically, to these closures,” Vaillancourt said.


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Laura Broadley

About the Author: Laura Broadley

Laura Broadley has been a journalist covering local news all across southern Ontario for almost a decade
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