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  • Writer's pictureDavid Thibodeau

Sport Organisation's Role in Community Development

As a follow up from last week’s post about social enterprises, I wanted to explore how established sport organisations are using sport in their communities to have a social impact. As previously identified in my conversation with Senator Marty Deacon and discussed in Government and the Sports for Social Impact Revolution, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee requested more funding for National Sport Organisations (NSOs) to increase their programming in community development. There are 58 NSOs in Canada.

The federal budget has been postponed indefinitely and will likely look very different than what it originally going to look like. I think that this is an opportunity for organisations to look at how they operate and how they allocate funding. Grassroot sport activities can be relatively low-cost, and using this in innovative ways can deliver on what NSOs want to accomplish without more funding.

When I looked at the programs offered by NSOs, I did not include youth programs aimed at increasing participation in their own sports. I only included the programs that were aimed at increasing physical activity, or some other community development aspect (inclusion, life skills, etc). I personally would not consider programs aimed at increasing participation in your own sport as community development, the goal should be using your sport to create a positive change in your community. Giving back to the community, rather than building your own community up. Few NSOs have grassroot programs aimed at increasing participants in their own sports.

So what are sport organisations in Canada doing? Do NSO have policies in place to lead themselves when they are trying to implement their community development programs? (The answer is no, I could not find any policies on community development). But I found 7 programs run by sport organisations aimed at using sport to have a social impact.

Commonwealth Sport Canada (not a NSO), has many community development programs through their sportWORKS program. One recent initiative that they launched is the Sport for Newcomers (S4N). It is designed to enhance the capacity of local Newcomer Settlement Services in Canada to increase participation and retention rates of newcomers in youth sports. These programs help with the integration and inclusion of newcomers to Canada and helping them build a sense of belonging and connection to their new homes.

Cycling Canada has the Hop On program. It is a games-based cycling program that teaches youth across Canada the joy of cycling safety. And in spring 2020 it was supposed to be launched in 9 provinces, delivered by the Provincial Sport Organisations, however I’m sure it was postponed due to COVID-19. They go into schools and teach basic cycling skills and safety awareness, and also provide 2-6 week programs in communities teaching cycling skills and connecting youth together through the challenges of cycling.

Athletics Canada has the Run, Jumpy, Throw, Wheel program, that uses track and field inspired games to teach youth the fundamentals of running, jumping, throwing, and wheeling (for children in wheelchairs). Their goal is to provide physical activity programs that serve as a foundation for all sports and assist children in learning to move efficiently so that they grow into more active, productive and healthy citizens.

Badminton Canada has the Shuttle Time program. They believe that this program will advance the physical education programs and enable students the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to lead physically active and healthy lives.

Football Canada has the First Down program that is aimed at developing fundamental movement skills like running, throwing, catching and kicking in Canadian youth. This program is aimed at building physical literacy, and foster further participation in physical activity or sport.

Wheelchair Basketball Canada has their Bridging the Gap program, a national program aimed to help individuals with a disability reintegrate into the community and regain their motivation, inspiration, independence and confidence through physical activity. The primary goal of this program is to eliminate the gap between introduction of sport and recreation in the rehabilitation setting and continued involvement in physical activity.

Ringette Canada has their Move, Think, Learn program that explores movement and tactical thinking associated with different sports and brings the skills together. The goal of this program is to increase knowledge, confidence and competence to become further engaged in physical activity and/or sport.

I reviewed all 58 websites of the NSOs, and I could only find 6 community development programs whose primary goal was to have a social impact. I’m excited to see what new social development programs will be developed by 58 NSOs, with so many thinking about how sport can have a positive impact, I’m sure there will be some amazing programs created.


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