Friday, March 29, 2019

Prototypes Highlight New Possibilities

One of reSPORT's main goals is to encourage experiments in making sport more accessible. Around Nova Scotia, some communities are already coming up with creative ways to address barriers in sport.

In Amherst, the municipal recreation department waived its fees for ice time, opening up free skates and lowering costs for club programs. Hockey registrations jumped as result, and public skating increased by 60 per cent in the first year.

In the Annapolis Valley, municipalities have partnered with schools to offer free after-school rec programs that run a few days a week for eight weeks at a time.

“It makes sure that opportunity is available for students who wouldn't necessarily be able to participate on a sports team for a variety of reasons,” says Meg Cuming, the valley's regional manager of Community Sport and Recreation with the provincial departmennt of Communities, Culture and Heritage.

Multisport programs have grown in popularity across the province since a pilot first launched in Antigonish in 2015. Colchester and the valley regions have also started programs, and a para multisport operates in Halifax.

In these programs, community sport organizations work together to give participants a sampling of different sports every few weeks over a 10-month span. The program exposes kids to sports they might not happen across otherwise, like badminton or taekwondo.

Coming up with creative ways to give kids variety is crucial, says Crystal Watson, executive director of Recreation Nova Scotia.

“One of the biggest barriers is young people aren't exposed to different sports,” she says. “Having that opportunity to try different sports, as opposed to being pigeonholed into only playing one particular sport (is important).”

In the northern zone, encompassing East Hants, Colchester, Cumberland and Pictou Counties, partners from different sectors formed a committee to help sport and recreation become more accessible and inclusive. After a study identifying gaps in the area—including gaps in resources, awareness of existing programs, and knowledge of accessibility issues at the community level— the region hired its first inclusion access consultant in January.

“We surveyed community sport organizations, and the biggest feedback we heard was, 'we want to be inclusive, we want to be welcoming to everyone, but we really just need some direction and support on how to approach that,'” says Courtney Nicholson-Patriquin, Fundy regional sport consultant with Sport Nova Scotia.

The inclusion consultant will work with organizations to look at things like policy, education, training and awareness to help make programs more accessible.

Many sport groups are stretched for resources on their own, but working together can produce lasting results, Nicholson-Patriquin says. 

“The biggest part of this project has been collaboration with different partners within our committee. It's not something one person can take on. It's something we're trying to do as a region to help create a bigger impact.”

That's another piece of the reSPORT approach: building connections across the usual sport boundaries to encourage trying new approaches together. The team wants to hear about prototype possiblities from all over the province.

“Sport is such a love for so many people,” says Carolyn Townsend, reSPORT lead for Sport Nova Scotia. “We hope to engage a lot more of those people.”


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