Sports Day in Canada: The importance of physical literacy | Sports | CBC Sports

Sports Day in Canada: The importance of physical literacy

Posted: Monday, November 25, 2013 | 07:26 PM

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Snowboarder Caroline Calve and kids on November 25 in Hamilton, Ont. (Scott Russell/CBC Sports) Snowboarder Caroline Calve and kids on November 25 in Hamilton, Ont. (Scott Russell/CBC Sports)

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RBC Sports Day in Canada is almost here, and CBC's Scott Russell is visiting communities across the country to see how they're celebrating ahead of the big day on Saturday, Nov. 30. First stop is Hamilton, Ont., where physical literacy was the theme stressed.
It's the morning after in Hamilton Ont.

It's the day that arrives in the wake of the Tiger Cats being mauled by Saskatchewan in the 101st Grey Cup. It's a time when you might expect a hangover in Canada's "Steel City" as a favourite team has missed out on a coveted prize.

And still as we kick off our RBC Sports Day in Canada Road Tour in association with ParticipACTION and True Sport, the children at the Westmount Recreation Centre are more than ready to play ball.

Cue the thunderous applause as Olympians and Paralympians get things rolling and engage in some good old fashioned physical activity at the local gym. 

There's Canadian sledge hockey captain and 2006 Paralympic gold medalist Greg Westlake whooping it up. Snowboarding star Caroline Calve is bound for Europe in a day or so but she's got time to run and jump with the kids in advance of the all important World Cup season. 

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Also in the thick of things are a couple of distinguished Olympians who are now retired from active competition and engaged in raising young families of their own.

Becky Kellar won three gold medals as a Canadian hockey player at the Salt Lake, Torino and Vancouver Games and is currently kept busy with two sons aged six and nine. She completely gets today's theme of the road trip which stresses something called "Physical Literacy." It's become a bit of a buzz phrase recently and it points to the fact that too many young people in Canada are unaware of the potential that their bodies have. The hope is that by educating children about sport and play, they will learn to live a more complete and balanced life just as they will by learning to read, write, perform calculus, and operate a computer.

"They should see physical activity as a normal daily occurrence to run and to play at whatever sport they want," Kellar said. "My hope is that they will find where their passion lies. My husband and I work out every day in a small gym in the basement of our house. The children see that as something which is normal."

Recent research commissioned by ParticipACTION shows that a startling number of Canadians don't see sport as a normal thing to do and in fact a majority may be heading towards physical illiteracy.   

A survey conducted by pollsters Angus Reid found that while 95 per cent of Canadians agree that sport promotes healthy and active living, only 13 per cent actually participate in sport on a regular basis and only 6 per cent would choose being physically active over watching TV or surfing the internet.

Unless the trend is reversed, Canada is heading for a deepening crisis of inactivity.

Parents' responsibility

"Physical activity refreshes your body and your mind," said 2008 Olympic gold medalist Brian Price. He won as the coxswain of the men's rowing crew in Beijing. Now he's focused on getting his six and three-year-old girls on board with sport.

"I want them to try things and I'm not streamlining them yet," he said. "It's a parent's responsibility to open the door to physical activity so the young ones will walk through the door when we're not around to lead them."

As the children from Riddell Academy School and Annunciation of our Lord School run races and play games with the Olympians, the sad reality is that they don't get nearly enough time in the gym as part of their core curriculum at school.

That's a major concern for Kristen MacDonald who heads up the Hamilton Physical Literacy for All steering committee.

"If we don't get them active now they won't be in the future," MacDonald said.  "We need teachers and specialists to help children be active in a positive and beneficial way not just a haphazard way. If you don't have physical literacy and understand basic movement skills you can't possibly expect to be active for life."

It sounds pretty basic but it's also something that too often gets overlooked.

While today's kids are becoming increasingly sophisticated when it comes to technology and the exploding allure of social media they are also more sedentary than the generations that preceded them.

Translation, they are at risk physically and the guarantee of their long term health is very much at stake.

It means that hitting the books and becoming better educated most certainly involves returning to the fields of play in greater numbers and doing it in a hurry.

Up next we're in Moncton, NB and our theme is "Inclusion" as we are on the eve of 100 days out from the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi.  You can follow our Sports Day in Canada Road Tour here on and on Twitter at #Sportsday.

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