There are many reasons Canadian kids don’t engage in sport and active outdoor play the way we did. No time, the allure of screens, inclement weather, and safety concerns are just a few. But there’s another reason keeping up to a third of Canadian children ages three to 17 on the sidelines – the cost of participating.
In a 2001 survey of over two thousand (commissioned by CIBC and KidSport), 61 per cent of respondents cited enrollment fees as a barrier to participation, while 52 per cent noted the cost of equipment.
With only five per cent of Canadian children and teens active enough for health benefits (yes, just 5%), and nearly a third of those five to 17 years of age overweight or obese, the decline of physical activity and sport participation in Canada is one we can ill afford.
So how can we make sport more accessible to every child? I don’t have all the answers (even my kids are old enough to know this now!) but I do have some suggestions:
- Pass along outgrown and no-longer-use sports equipment that’s in good condition, for others to enjoy.
- Help organize equipment exchanges in your community.
- Give your business to camps, businesses, leagues, and teams that have policies of never turning a child away, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. I love that Shawn Reynolds of Lytton Park Tennis in Toronto always finds a way for an interested child to participate in his programs.
- Bridge gaps by identifying needs and bringing together parties with solutions (i.e. do you know of a local business that would jump at the chance to help offset the cost of sport participation for families/children in need?).
- Advocate for more community tennis courts, and free or low-cost recreational space in schools, community recreation centres, on local sports fields, etc.
- Volunteer! So many leagues, teams, and opportunities for children and youth would never come together without the dedicated volunteers who run them.
- Advocate for more physical education and extra-curricular sports opportunities at your child’s school.
My friend, Dr. Doug Gleddie (@doug_gleddie), Assistant Professor of Physical Education in the Department of Elementary Education at the University of Alberta offers these additional tips:
- Join community leagues and teams that offer active fun and sport participation without exorbitant fees.
- Encourage schools to offer more than one sports team or to create “sports clubs” where kids can enjoy participation without the pressure of having “to make” a team.
- Advocate for quality physical education so that all kids have the opportunity to become physically literate and to gain in competence and confidence.
- Support intramural programs in schools so that all kids can play.
What ideas do you have to help make tennis, and every sport, more accessible and affordable? I’d love to hear from you on this important subject. Join me on Twitter @Cate_Cameron.