COVID-19 restrictions: Calgary restaurants look at layoffs as coaches struggle to keep kids active

Sunday marks the last day of practices for at least the next three weeks for youth involved in sports in Alberta.

Read more: Schools go online as Alberta adds more COVID-19 restrictions for 3 weeks

New restrictions aimed at helping slow a spike in COVID-19 cases go into effect at midnight.

For coaches like Darcy Cumming, there has been a lot of extra work since the province allowed teams to practice in groups of 10 in February, but he says it’s been worth it.

“Everybody’s happy when they’re here at soccer,” said Cumming, who volunteers coaching a girls’ soccer team in northwest Calgary.

Read more: Alberta government adds minor sports training, gymnastics and dance to Monday’s COVID-19 reopening

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Cumming said it’s meant more paperwork, designing new drills and making sure the kids are keeping their distance.

“They are great when they come to the field. We have made some modifications that point out that we will be socially distant for every practice, and the players have adapted,” Cumming said.

The new provincial restrictions mean that team practices and indoor recreation activities are prohibited again. Cumming plans to get creative by setting up virtual fitness challenges but he says nothing replaces getting outside.

“Part of the problem is kids will go from going outside for physical activity to staying indoors. Part of what I’m trying to do is let’s get the players to get outside and do a little fitness challenge or a little skill challenge every day just to get them outside, which is probably the best thing for them at this time,” Cumming said.

“Otherwise, they’re just in front of screens from the start of school until they are done their favourite program.”

Read more: Alberta businesses brace for 3rd round of COVID-19 restrictions, closures

Jordan Stewart with Calgary Minor Soccer Association is advising parents to be patient, stay positive and get out and play with their kids while the new measures are in effect. He says the limited practices were appreciated by players eager to run around and see friends.

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“The challenges for young people are both on the physical and psychological sides. The psychological side of just missing that connection with teammates and coaches and having that social outlet and enjoyment that soccer provides. It’s certainly difficult right now,” said Stewart, technical lead with Calgary Minor Soccer Association.

Read more: Alberta restaurant owners frustrated as COVID-19 closures cut into prime patio season

But Stewart said coaches and staff have made the best of a bad situation by adapting to the 10-person rules over the last several months.

“Our clubs have been unbelievable in the way that they have been engaging the kids and trying to keep them connected and trying to offer training in either virtual settings or in socially distant settings, and right now, probably going into a virtual delivery,” Stewart said.

‘Everything is so up in the air’

It’s not just sports teams that will be affected by the new restrictions.

Ronnie Mupambwa just opened his new tapas restaurant Chakalaka in February. He forked out $40,000 to set up two heated patios to adapt to previous provincial rules that only allowed for outdoor dining.

“Everything is so up in the air. If I don’t (set up patios), for a guy like me, how am I supposed to feed my mom on Mother’s Day today? I have to do whatever I can to make sure we at least keep it going,” Mupambwa said.

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Read more: Calgary man battles discrimination and pandemic in effort to open new restaurant

But now all in-person dining will be prohibited for at least three weeks, and Mupambwa said staff will be laid off again.

Mother’s Day could have been a decent final day for restaurants but Mupambwa said the snow and cold on Sunday will likely keep the patio quiet.

“It’s very difficult, and when you look outside and you look at everything that you’re going through, it’s tough. It’s very tough,” Mupambwa said.

He said he and his limited staff will continue to provide takeout service but that will mean a redesign of the tapas-style menu.

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