Canada Games postponement presents chance for youth athletes to improve

·3 min read
Canadian women's hockey team member Natalie Spooner took part in the 'Canada Games Presents: Getting Back in the Game' panel discussion on Wednesday.
Canadian women's hockey team member Natalie Spooner took part in the 'Canada Games Presents: Getting Back in the Game' panel discussion on Wednesday.

(Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

With so many levels of sport affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the bigger impacts has been on younger athletes early in the process of carving out their careers.

Cancellations and postponements have led to many youth athletes being stuck on the sideline, at home, hoping for their next opportunity to prove themselves.

The postponement of the Canada Games from 2021 to 2022 is among those missed opportunities that was once stepping stone for athletes reaching new heights, such as former Canadian Olympic speed skater Anastasia Bucsis, who was part of the 'Canada Games Presents: Getting Back in the Game' panel on Wednesday.

The Canada Games take place every two years, featuring competition between the country's youth athletes in both summer and winter sports. The upcoming Games will take place in Niagara, Ont.

"I think the Canada Games was the most fun competition I've ever done in my life, including two Olympics," Bucsis said. "It was the first time where I had the privilege of getting clear with my intentions, but also realizing that I could do it."

"It was the perfect competition for me to buy in and believe in myself as well. Super high-level competition and it just showed me, 'Wow I can do this. I can go to the Olympics, I can get on the national team.' It really, really gave me the belief in myself."

Former Canadian goalkeeper Karina Leblanc, Canadian wheelchair basketball player Woody Belfort and Canadian women's hockey player Natalie Spooner also took part in the discussion.

Resiliency

With an understanding for how tough these times could be for younger athletes, Spooner says it could make for more resilient athletes going forward.

"It's definitely been a struggle. You just got to make the best out of your scenario. Find places to train whether it's in your house or your bodyweight, or right now, go out in the ODR [outdoor rink], wherever it is that you could make [do]," Spooner said.

"We're going to have some of the most resilient athletes we've ever had because people are having to overcome so much to keep training."

"I think it's going to be those athletes who have found ways that are going to come out on top. Those are going to be the ones that have found a way to do it and to keep training and it's not always easy."

Application and digging deep

The Canada Games have been a measuring stick for athletes like Belfort, who says all the work put in by younger athletes today creates a foundation for what can be accomplished at the; Canada Games.

"Before the Canada Games, I never saw the true results of my workouts, all the hours I put in because you live in the now, you're always thinking, 'What could I do to improve?'", Belfort said. "At the Canada Games, I realized everything I was doing since I was young, had to be applied."

Challenges faced will only serve to sculpt and strengthen tomorrow's athletes, Leblanc added.

"This pandemic, everyone has their story," she said. "It's not to compare it to each other person, it's your personal story. The hardships that you face now in it, trust me when I say, this is all part of building who you are meant to be. The difficulty we're going through today, is sculpting you to be the person that you're meant to be at the Canada Games or whatever you're doing in life.

"I'm a firm believer that through your toughest time, and I've been through some recently, it's almost redefined me to be a better version of myself. I challenge us all to realize that the best is yet to come. ... Don't think it's lost because of what we're going through."