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Re-Imagining School Sports

Side view of five teenage sprinters in sportswear lined up ready to race at the stadium

If School is for All, School Sport is for All.

Participation in sport provides students with opportunities to develop a lifelong love of physical activity and to practise some of the social and emotional skills that will help them later in life. Schools are an opportune place to provide sport programs as they act as an access point for students.

Volleyball game with playing teenage children on the playground during summer sunny day

However, as it exists today, the middle school sport model is not equipped to encourage participation. Schools often lack the best facilities and trained coaches, and sports tend to cater to financially stable families who can afford to put their kids in sports in and outside of school, and those who can reliably get their kids to and from events. The students who play competitively have more opportunity to develop as athletes in quality facilities with trained coaches, therefore making them the better competitors and the ones chosen to play on the school teams. It’s a reality that leaves many students behind.

No Cuts in School Sports is a developing project that aims to make participation in school sport a viable option for all students. If school is for all, school sport is for all (Säfvenbom, Geldhof & Hauge, 2014). In the 2018/2019 school year, PhD student and middle school teacher Jonathan Mauro began working to develop a new school sport framework. Ever Active Schools and the University of Alberta are supporting the project by facilitating workshops with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools.

Starting in September 2019, both the Red Deer and Edmonton Catholic school districts plan to have developed a school sport framework that increases access for students who want to play on school sports teams. This new framework will encourage an increased number of coaches to allow more students to receive training; professional development for coaches to be able to provide a better program; improved facilities, whether within the school or partnering with recreation facilities; and lowered costs to reduce financial barriers.

We have seen coaches and administrators shift their mindset on what school sport is about - they are becoming eager to make meaningful change. One school division has already recommended changes to their school athletics format for the upcoming year and has begun to move forward in supporting quality coaching development.

“We know that there are many benefits, from physical to social and emotional, to life skills, from participation in school sport. The uniqueness of school sport is that  it reaches almost every single child. So if we’re able to use it to have these positive impacts on children, that is what we’re trying to aim for.”

- Jonathan Mauro, Teacher, St. Francis of Assisi Middle School 

“In an ideal world, we’d be able to offer a team or school sport program for every student who wants to participate and be on a team. That program would be able to still develop the skills of all of those kids, and yet offer competitive sport for those students who want to go that route… It wouldn’t hinder the ability for the other students to participate in sports as well. Whether that’s an intramural type program or a jamboree type of league where kids are showing up and still getting the same practice and skill development from qualified coaching but playing in just tournament type of play, and still offering that competitive side for the higher end athletes.”

- Gary Gylander, Principal, St. Francis of Assisi Middle School

“The successes that we’ve seen in our school has been amazing. It gives students an opportunity to have somewhere to go after school. The amount of values and characteristics that they get through school sport has helped our kids out so much. We’ve seen so much more respect and kindness toward each other. They’re getting those values of respect, commitment, trust, all that kind of stuff.”

- Kelsey Heatherington, Physical Education Teacher, St. Gregory the Great Catholic School

 

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