Abbygayle Welch - Oct 18, 2021
Combating youth sport regression post-pandemic
UVU Training is on a mission to save the devastating decline in youth sports by helping athletes get back into the game.
Athleticism in young people is at risk due to COVID-19. According to data gathered between March and May 2021 by Canadian Women & Sport, the interest in returning to sports for girls under 18 after the pandemic was concerningly low.
The data shows that an alarming total of 93% of girls between the ages of 6 to 18 stopped participating or decreased their participation in sport in the past few months. From barriers such as a shortage of access to quality programs, to a lack of confidence in their skills and abilities, young girls across the country are actively shutting out their adoration for sports as well as potential opportunities in their most crucial years.
17-year-old soccer player, Abbygayle Welch, is actively breaking those barriers. However, it wasn’t always a breeze.
A lover of the game since age 3, she already has a playing career spanning over 14 years. Soccer gave her the stability she required while also teaching her social skills and how to work collaboratively within a team. With aspirations to become a starter for a university in the near future, she currently plays for Darby FC in Whitby, Ontario.
Abbygayle attributes much of her recent success and growth to training with KickDeck amid the pandemic, where she’s had about 18 training sessions with Coach Skylar Thomas.
Prior to last year, she was unable to hang out with friends and often missed out on events due to frequent practices and games. Alike many young athletes, COVID-19 restrictions forced her to stay home, ultimately allowing her to reflect on where she wanted to go with the sport. Was soccer just a hobby or was there potential to elevate her game to the next level? “I got obsessed with that idea of freedom and I kind of drifted away from soccer. I didn’t play for at least 3 or 4 months. I didn’t touch a soccer ball. And I was content with that,” she says.
Taking too much advantage of the unprecedented break, it was a post-secondary institution reaching out to her that brought her back to reality. Soccer was something that she definitely wanted to pursue competitively. With an absence of training options, she was then introduced to KickDeck.
“KickDeck gave me a schedule, and that was a big deal to me because during COVID I didn’t have one. I wanted to work out, but it was really easy for me to decide not to,” says Abbygayle. “When KickDeck came, I would feel guilty for not going. [Skylar] gave me times and I had to be there, and if I didn’t show up then I’d feel bad because I’m letting someone else down. And that’s when it started really shaping my life, because I had to be there whether I wanted to or not.”
Getting back to training kept Abbygayle motivated and strengthened her perspective on the path she wanted to take. Because of her concentration and determination, she has refined skills that even the university girls she plays amongst have yet to accomplish.
“COVID-19 made me decide if I really wanted to play soccer or not. It was a difficult decision but I’m glad it happened to me,” she says.
Many youth that were in the same shoes as Abbygayle are still on the fence of deciding whether or not to come back to sport because they’re unaware of the positive resources available to them.