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Let Them Play rally in Rimbey spotlights the mental health benefits in youth sports

Rimbey Review - 1/30/2021

Bundled against the January cold, roughly 60 people came together at the Rimbey Arena recently to seek changes in the regulations around youth sports and clubs.

The Let Them Play rally held in Rimbey on Jan. 23 was organized to bring attention to the need for youth sports and activities.

While those who attended the rally were primarily youth hockey players, coaches and family members, Chad Beagle, who organized the rally, said it extended to all youth activity.

"We put it together quickly because those kids are running out of time on their [hockey] season. But it wasn't just about the hockey players," said Beagle.

"It was for the dancers and kids playing baseball at the dome in Red Deer. It was for the kids who are in clubs [like 4-H] but can't go to meetings because of all this."

Youth activity is important, Beagle says, because it does more than gets kids out of the house for an hour or two.

The biggest benefits to sports and activities for children and teenagers is that it gives them an outlet, allows them a chance to socialize and also benefits mental health.

Beagle says sports and activities like hockey also help young people get away from glowing screens and potentially dangerous substances.

"For teens especially this type of thing is incredibly important. Once a teen moves away from sports on onto other activities or addictions it can be near impossible to get them to come back to sports.

"I have helped teens over come drug and alcohol addictions and it was so difficult," Beagle said.

Since the rally on Jan. 23, many other organizations and individuals have reached out to share why they feel youth sports and other activities are important.

Beagle says many of the stories he has been told are "truly heartbreaking."

"I had one parent reach out to me and tell me her son used to love hockey and he would come home after school or practise and spend and hour or so outside practising. Now he spends all of his time watching T.V. instead."

Beagle, along with Bobby McKinlay, president of Bentley Minor Hockey, met with Health Minister Tyler Shandro and MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre Jason Nixon to plead their case.

Shandro and Nixon were both understanding and appreciative when discussing the matter, Beagle said.

On Jan. 29, Premier Jason Kenney announced Alberta would begin easing the restrictions that have been in place since early December.

Indoor and outdoor children's sports and performance related to school may resume, but competition and league play will remain prohibited, according to Friday's announcement.

Recently, Hockey Alberta set a deadline of Feb. 1, to decide whether or not the 2020-2021 minor hockey season will continue.

"With the announcement [Friday] I'm not sure what it all means right now and we are waiting for more clear information," Beagle said.

"What I do know, is this can't continue, these kids need the outlet sports provides."

Following the rally in Rimbey, multiple other communities, such as Bentley and Strathmore, held their own Let Them Play rally.

Beagle says he is appreciative of the support the movement has received in the week since the rally.