The border between the USA and Canada is reopening and it’s not just leisure vacationers who are happy – it’s sports event owners, who have longed to bring teams to competitions on either side.
Unfortunately, the goalposts keep changing. The U.S. has extended its non-essential travel restriction to August 21. Canada has said it will allow its citizens to come south as of August 9.
And those conflicting restrictions have aroused the ire of Canadian sports luminaries, who took to press conferences and social media to discuss the importance of restoring cross-border tournaments, particularly in the youth arena.
According to CBS Canada, Olympic speed skating gold medalist Catriona Le May Doan is one of those who has spoken out.
The Saskatoon native, who will be Team Canada's chef de mission at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, also called for youth sports to receive more funding during the panel discussion, Canada's Youth Sport Outlook, hosted recently by CBC Sports.
"Many sports organizations closed down or are worried they will not survive into 2021," Le May Doan said. "So, the financial part is definitely the number-one concern. And how we get the youth back to sports."
Some provinces are working to shore up youth sports and restore opportunities that were lost in 2020. 680 News noted that in mid-March of this year, the Ontario Government announced over $15 million in funding for grassroots sports and high-performance athletes.
A recent study released by the Canada Games Council (CGC) and quoted in the site, Vancouver Is Awesome, noted in part that one in three Canadian youth between the ages of 13 and 24 were unsure if they would return to playing the sport they love once restrictions were eased.
“This concerning data suggests that our sport community needs to do everything we can to support the long-term welfare of Canadian youth, by remaining engaged in sport,” said the president and CEO of the CGC, Dan Wilcock, in a press release.
And, noted an article in Inside The Games, Wilcock is in favor of reopening tournaments to all youth.
"As we move forward, we want to support a safe and welcoming environment that motivates Canadians to experience the positive benefits of sport."
The CGC is associated with the Canada Games, a multi-sport event held every two years for amateur sport in the country. The next Summer Games are set to take place from August 6 to 21, 2022, in the Niagara region, and the 2023 Canada Winter Games are set to take place on Prince Edward Island.
According to CBS, a new study by TeamSnap shows youth sports events across Canada are at 52 per cent compared to May and June 2019.
However, there is good news concerning the resiliency of the industry. More current statistics show a slow but steady return to pre-2020 levels in all provinces, with baseball and soccer having the highest number of events scheduled.
And, the Toronto Star added, since the pandemic began, there have been no known outbreaks in the province connected to youth sports; while these reports were unofficial, they were compiled from sources at amateur sports associations the Star spoke to, including volleyball, basketball, baseball and hockey.
In the U.S., interest in traveling back to Canada is high, according to the Lake of the Woods Tourism website, which notes that the experience crossing the border can be streamlined with the use of technology:
“Details are still being shared, but initially what we do know is Americans will have to download the ArriveCAN app. Canada Border Services Agency launched the ArriveCAN mobile app to make it easier for travelers to provide their contact information upon entering the country. Travelers must download the ArriveCAN mobile app, available on the Apple App and Google Play Stores, prior to your arrival to reduce wait times and limit points of contact.
Once the ArriveCAN app is downloaded, travelers from the U.S. into Canada will upload their COVID-19 vaccination card. Travelers must also have a COVID-19 PCR (molecular) test showing a negative test that is less than 72 hours from when the test was taken.”
USA TODAY further notes that American travelers wanting to visit Canada by land, air or water must complete a COVID-19 vaccination at least 14 days prior to entry. The government of Canada accepts the Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccines.
For youth, the rules are more lenient (something that will no doubt be seen as good news by event owners): Children under the age of 12 and unvaccinated dependent children will be allowed to enter the country with a fully vaccinated parent, stepparent, tutor or guardian who is eligible to enter Canada.
In Canada, just as in the USA, event owners suffered during 2020, and event owners see the need to bring in athletes, as well as to have them going back and forth easily to events held in adjoining states, as being essential to not just physical health but economic wellbeing.
In Kingston, Ontario, interest in participating in youth sports, particularly mainstream team activities, is higher than ever and pent-up demand is boosting enrollment.
Kingston Baseball officials told The Toronto Star they were seeing an unprecedented number of participants.
“Last year’s registration numbers were down very slightly,” said a spokesperson for Kingston Baseball. “But 2021 has seen an increase in numbers to our previous five years, with many new players joining our sport.”
The recent reopening of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will provide an additional attraction for youth players and their families.