If you have school-aged kids, you've likely spent plenty of your weekends feeling like a chauffeur; shuttling children from sporting engagements to birthday parties to playdates and home again.
COVID shutdowns have had an enormous impact on the opportunities for children of all ages and the ability to participate in organised activities. Thus, they possibly left parents pining for their days as the family chauffeur.
Some have adapted better than others, with certain sporting codes lending themselves to remote activities, while others have left children bereft.
Hobby on hold
Ayla Freeman is in her final year of high school, where dance has always been her passion.
She has been an active participant in all aspects of the performing arts throughout her school years, both as a dance performer and a theatre technician.
She has used the recent lockdowns to spend time with her younger siblings, and going to the park for long walks and runs to get out of the house.
Ayla has already decided her post-school studies will be in the sciences. But she said participating in after-school dance classes, or performance work with classmates for school assessments was difficult.
She said finding the motivation to keep going had been the most challenging thing about moving to an entirely virtual sphere.
"It really wasn't an atmosphere where we wanted to dance. We would have to be out on our decks getting nails in our feet, or on the grass getting rashes from it, or in our bedrooms just not being able to express our form the way we normally do," she said.
Ayla and her classmates fear they will struggle to catch up with their peers who haven't been in lockdown, especially when it comes to exams and practical assessments for their performing arts subjects.
"Working in an ensemble pushes us to try new things and go further," Ayla said.
"Not having that atmosphere is definitely limiting our growth as dancers because I'm not being exposed to the influence of the other dancers, the music, the choreographers. It doesn't feel like dancing anymore; it just feels like movement."
Teachers have advised there is little chance of any live performances for the rest of the year. Attempting online performances has not proved successful either.
Ayla has focused on getting off the screen every hour, even if it's to take a short walk outside, to combat the difficulties faced by students unable to participate in team sports.
Social activities have replaced classes with students making an effort to host Zoom meetups and interact away from the pressures of school work.
Free-play feels foreign
Julie Johnson, a sponsorship and fundraising manager in the not-for-profit sector, said the restrictions on organised activities during lockdowns highlighted how unfamiliar her children were with free play.
She is the mother of two teenage boys who excel at AFL, and they have both struggled with the lack of structure to online learning and social interaction.
Julie saw the lockdown as an opportunity for her sons to explore new physical and creative activities.
In her case, both her sons took up bike riding, which quickly escalated from riding with friends around the park to taking on local bush tracks to some serious mountain biking.
While not all parents will be enthusiastic about their kids taking on high-risk activities, Julie flagged other areas where even she was surprised at their success.
Knowing that if she or her husband had tried to suggest mindfulness or meditation to her active boys, they would have got nowhere, Julie enlisted the help of a close family friend.
Taking advantage of her sons' admiration for a family friend, the family started a conversation about using meditation to help get through the emotional upheavals of lockdown. Both boys downloaded a mediation app on their phones with fantastic results.
Getting ready for kick-off
With restrictions set to ease in Victoria, NSW, and the ACT, it looks like this summer sport will be on again. But as participants and spectators return to fields, courts and clubhouses, the organisations that receive them may look different from before.
According to Patrick Walker, CEO of the Australian Sports Foundation - a not-for-profit that raises funds for sports around Australia - clubs have been hit with the triple whammy of declining participation, an absence of volunteers and traditional fundraising stream cut off.
"Community sports are self-funded, and all of its income streams were by and large hit," he said.
While there were some bright spots - golf and tennis saw significant increases in participation due to being socially distanced - some winter codes have now had two seasons in a row either truncated or cancelled.
These cancellations have hit teenagers particularly hard. In a survey of clubs around Australia, 40 per cent said their largest decline in participation was in the 11-18 age bracket. Walker said that if young people leave a sport at this age, it's unlikely they will return, despite reaping the greatest benefit that sport provides.
"This is the cohort that has suffered the worst; HSCs have been deferred, their hopes for university have changed. Yet, it's the age group that would most benefit from sport's impact on physical and mental health and social cohesion."
To get their kids back into sports, Walker suggested parents make the most of government vouchers to defray the costs and understand clubs are adjusting to the new normal.
"Sport isn't just playing a game of netball, footy or hockey; it's actually the social building blocks of life."