Student athletes use online workouts to stay sharp during COVID-19 lockdown

Rhett Melnyk can’t remember the last time he was off the ice this long.  

The 15-year-old Vimy Ridge Academy hockey player is used to spending at least half of his day on skates playing the game he loves. 

“I’ve definitely been missing the ice for sure,” said Melnyk who has replaced ice time with a structured workout program that he follows at home in Fort Saskatchewan every morning.

Melnyk is supposed to be heading to Kennewick, Washington this fall to play for the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans

He was chosen in the second round, 33rd overall, of the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft. He played last season in the ABMHL with the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers Bantam AAA team.

For now, Melnyk and many other Vimy Ridge student athletes connect with teachers and coaches who are setting up routines for them then shared online. 

“We’re doing our best to try and communicate with them and trying to engage with them,” said Stephen Armitage, program director for athletic and academic development at Vimy Ridge. 

“Obviously not having them in the school is a challenge and not being with them and not being able to guide them through their activities is a big difficulty that we’re facing.”

‘It’s hard’ 

On the south side, Edmonton Scottish Soccer Club was getting ready to kick off its outdoor soccer season four weeks ago. 

More than 1,000 kids are enrolled in Scottish’s program. 

While everyone waits, weekly skills sessions are hosted by coaches online.

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Teams are also doing online group check-ins weekly to stay connected.  

“For so many kids the club is an important part of their life not just their athletic life, but their social life,’ said Kevin Poissant, the club’s technical director. 

“These are friends that they’re missing, these are coaches that they’ve enjoyed connecting with and being away from that it’s hard,” added Poissant.  

It’s a similar story in the west end at ATHX, a high-performance training centre that helps train kids of all ages in a variety of sports with individualized coaching. 

The gym is empty now, though the centre does offer virtual programs specific to the customer.

ATHX owner Derek Lampshire stands beside a squat machine in his gym. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)


“It’s very challenging building some of these programs because we have so many athletes,” said Derek Lampshire, owner of ATHX who joked he’s also added being a shipper and receiver as well as a Kijiji expert to his title. 

He says much of their equipment flew out the door when the pandemic started getting serious. Nearly 80 per cent of ATHX’s equipment is being rented out.

“My co-worker and I have been coming into work, but it’s kind of eerie right now, it’s very quiet, we’ve got a whole gym to ourselves,” Lampshire said. 

Tough adjustment

The new physical distancing rules make for a tough adjustment for athletes and coaches alike. 

Teaching and training for sports is based on in-person instruction, which can’t be done during the pandemic. 

Registered psychologist Nicolas Allen, says he’s been seeing it first hand with clients at Human Integrated Performance.

“It’s common knowledge that structure and routine is so important for all levels of youth sports,” said Allen. 

“So to have that thrown out the window has been very difficult in my practice at the very least so we’ve been trying to find a way to create or re-create that structure in their home life now.”

It’s a void Allen says can be best countered by creating a routine, even writing down a list you want to do.

He suggests athletes make a list of some personal goals, work on breathing and concentration, and visualize what getting back to playing will look like.

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