CBC Sports

Amateur sportsFinding a sporting balance

Posted: Wednesday, January 5, 2011 | 12:17 PM

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On the surface it's the same old song. Live Right Now, the latest CBC initiative to connect with communities across the country, is hoping to get Canadians moving and in the process become more physically literate.

 

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Our Canadian junior hockey players have currently captivated a huge audience in this country. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

On the surface it's the same old song.

Live Right Now, the latest CBC initiative to connect with communities across the country, is hoping to get Canadians moving and in the process become more physically literate.

In other words, folks of all ages and of various shapes and sizes are being urged to get in tune with their bodies in order to age gracefully and discover some sort of balance in life. Participants are encouraged to do so by issuing personal and group challenges across various forms of social media thus urging each other on through cyberspace.

It's ParticiPaction by another name and for a different generation.

What lies beneath the surface is a desire for the general population to become more competitive and in fact, more sporting. Let's be clear, all of this physical activity including; running, jumping, swimming, shooting hoops or skating on an outdoor rink, have sport or athletics at the foundation.

The hope is that we'll all get stronger by competing with ourselves and with each other.

It's about time that we transform this country from a nation of spectators to one that becomes more active on the fields of play.  In the process, we'll have a good shot at finding a balance between sport as entertainment and sport as essential to our long-term survival.

This won't be an easy thing to do and it won't happen overnight. Step one will be to get in the game instead of just watching it on TV.

Canadian juniors draw huge audience

The Canadian junior hockey players have currently captivated a huge audience in this country. The vast majority of us who watch their progress at the World U-20 championship are on side for patriotic reasons. But these players are also marvels because of their incredible physical and social abilities.

To a man, the juniors are specimens who complete wondrous and skillful maneuvers at blinding speed. They hit hard and shake hands at the end of the day. They are exemplary in terms of their presentation to the public and, for the most part, articulate beyond their years.

These players are good role models and what we should at least partly be striving for in terms of the development of Canadian youth.

Gasping for air

At one of the kickoff events for Live Right Now held at the downtown Toronto YMCA, dozens of us "CBC types" were put through our paces by a personal trainer and a Yoga instructor. So it was that Garfield Wilson of Vancouver had us doing burpees, squats and running on the spot just like we did in our school days. At the end of a half-hour session most of us were gasping for air even though we fancy ourselves as a pretty active bunch.

Afterwards, Wilson talked about his belief that Canadians need to be a more physically fit and more importantly, the focus has to be on youth.

"It's a crisis of convenience," Wilson figured. "Our young people have so many conveniences to distract them. They converse via text message and play games on electronic devices. In my day we rode our bikes and played road hockey until the sun went down."

Scott Haldane, the president and CEO of YMCA Canada concurred.

"We've found that only 12 per cent of Canadian youngsters get enough exercise to avoid chronic health issues later in life," he lamented. "We've got to find a way to reach the other 88 per cent."

It's true and it's staring us in the face.

While we have come to understand that our kids are getting more sedentary and less like those sparkling junior hockey players, our governments are closing gymnasiums and swimming pools and erasing physical and health education from core curriculums in our schools.

"Imagine what we could get done in classrooms if the students were awake and alert," Garfield Wilson enthused. "Imagine if they were aware of their bodies and how good it made them feel for the rest of the day if they shot baskets or ran laps first thing in the morning."

Which brings us to the Yoga class.

It was painful for many of us who had never done it before and who were quick to write it off as some sort of "pretend" athletic pursuit. It's also amazing to discover how competitive you can be when you're behind a 253-pound ex NHL player named Georges Laraque who is seemingly as flexible as many gymnasts you've seen.

Or that just beside you is a guy named Bill who competes in marathons and guides visually impaired distance runners. He also doesn't seem to have a problem with the Yoga. Nor does the amputee who is just ahead of you. His version of the Downward Dog is pretty darn convincing.

"Just find your balance," is what the Yoga instructor intones every once in awhile.

I keep thinking about the hockey juniors and watching them on TV. As I struggle to lift my leg back and hold it while leaning forward and stretching the opposite arm out, I wobble mightily and can't find my level.

It strikes me that we're all trying to find the middle ground between admiring high performance athletes like the junior hockey players and actually striving to be more like them.

This is why Canada needs to take steps in the modern age and listen to a familiar tune. By committing to Live Right Now maybe we can find our collective sporting balance.

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