Nova Scotia

Cape Breton programs breaks down barriers for kids to learn sports

A new multi-sport program from Cape Breton University and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality aims to be accessible and teach kids how to play different sports, gain confidence and make friends.

'This is unprecedented access, getting the program out to communities,' says CBRM official

Kids learn to play different sports as part of Cape Breton University's multi-sport program. (Emily Latimer/CBC)

Swarms of kids dressed in bright orange T-shirts swung bats, kicked balls and volleyed big balloons inside Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S., on Tuesday as part of a program that aims to teach kids how to play different sports, gain confidence and make friends.

Dozens of children tried out baseball, volleyball and hockey as part of a multi-sport program created by Cape Breton University and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Capers in the Community travels to towns within CBRM to teach kids how to play sports. The program is free, which helps break down access barriers.

Becky Hanna, lead coach and a former CBU soccer player, is a multi-sport athlete herself. As a kid, she played basketball, softball, tennis, volleyball and did gymnastics.

"I truly believe if I hadn't played multi-sport as a kid, then I wouldn't have excelled as much as I did in soccer," she said.

Becky Hanna is a lead coach with the program and former CBU soccer player. (Emily Latimer/CBC)

The skills she learned in other sports helped her on the soccer field.

"I had one of the biggest throw-ins in the league because of my upper body strength from gymnastics," she said. "And I had good footwork because of tennis, and I had good hand-eye co-ordination because of baseball."

Helps teach teamwork

Deano Morley, program co-ordinator, said sports is a powerful tool to teach teamwork and co-operation to kids.

"The multi-sport approach is a national best practice, and we believe that this is the first in Canada, taking this approach out to kids," Morley said.

Morley said teaching physical literacy and fundamental movement skills to children helps set them up for future success.

"If they want to go ride a bike, climb trees, go outside and be active, they have all the life skills to go and be active for life," he said.

Expansion hopes

The program employs 10 staff, two lead coaches and eight youth leaders in grades 11 and 12.

Kirk Durning is CBRM's manager of recreation. He estimates that more than 1,000 kids have accessed the program since it started running four weeks ago.

"This is unprecedented access, getting the program out to communities that don't typically see this type of program," Durning said.

Participants at the Capers in the Community program do a group cheer. (Emily Latimer/CBC)

The program is targeted toward children ages five to 12 who want to get active, build confidence and have fun.

So far, the program has travelled to Louisbourg, Glace Bay, New Waterford and Whitney Pier.

Morley hopes that eventually the program expands island-wide.

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