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The Right Honourable David Johnston, former Governor General of Canada, declared the year 2015 as the “Year of Sport” in Canada. During this year, Canada played host to several international sporting events such as the Pan Am/ Parapan American Games in Toronto, the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the 2015 World Hockey Championship. The act of declaring 2015 as such a prestigious year for Canadian sport was done to commemorate Canadian sport culture and encourage the younger population to reduce their use of electronic devices and slow the decline in sports participation and physical activity. Ige Egal addressed the concern centred around the declining of sports participation by Canadians in his policy paper entitled, “Let’s Get in The Game” published by the Mowatt Centre on June 29, 2017. Egal suggests eliminating that which is known as Sport Canada, developing strategies to eradicate barriers associated with infrastructure funding, availability and access as well as adopting principles from other countries, namely, New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. This paper expands on the idea set forth that states that the Canadian government should adopt some of the practices New Zealand employs to incorporate sport within its society at both the national and individual level. Additionally, community participation of sport, funding allocation within the federal government, proper marketing within and around the athletic community as well as implementing sport into education by ensuring students receive physical literacy skills are also evaluated as possible aides in the transformation that Egal suggests is necessary.
New Zealand is known for its stellar performances in sport, more specifically rugby. In an article posted in the paper The Sport Freak, New Zealand Rugby was quoted as the most successful sports team in the world. Rugby is a Pakeha created game that was adopted by the Maori men and was seen as a means of enjoyment, mana, group spirit and upward mobility in a Pakeha world (Starr, 1992). New Zealand is known for the haka, which is identified as a national sporting ritual performed and displayed during heightened moments of national significance, such as facing foreign opponents (Jackson, 2002). In brief, prior to and immediately after the national anthem, the Maori player’s form a semicircle at midfield facing their opponents in which they collectively engage in 40 seconds of coordinated recitation of words and vigorous body movements, that which is the haka. It is believed that the haka is a powerful symbol of Maroi culture and represents much more than a national sporting ritual.
In an interview with Daniel Brandes, the 1st XV coach of New Zealand’s top ranked rugby school, King’s College, Coach Daniel was asked, “ What is the 1st thing a New Zealand schoolboy learns?”. His reply was what appeared to be a common jargon in the New Zealand sport culture, “catch and pass, catch and pass.” He further went on to state that the jargon was coined from the basic “catch” and “pass” fundamental taught to kids as their first introduction to sport and is colloquially referred to by New Zealanders as “catchpass.” This idea is thought to be an enormous factor contributing to New Zealand’s slick handling and poetic skills (Jackson, 2002). Rugby is a sport that engages New Zealand children at a young age and focus is placed on four key skills: catch, pass, run and evade. The introduction to these physical literacy skills at such an early age provides children with the confidence, motivation and physical competence to engage in physical activities for a lifetime. Alongside Ige Egal, Diane English of Parks and Recreation Ontario aided the discussion centred around resolving the decline of Canadians in sport participation by suggesting the implementation of physical literacy skills into the education system in Canada. Adopting New Zealand’s practice of using physical literacy skills to introduction the proper foundation necessary to promote physical activity should be apart of Canada’s solution to this decline in action.
According to participation.com the countries with the most active children overall include: New Zealand, Slovenia and Zimbabwe, which all utilize different approaches to promote physical activity and have been found to use pervasive cultural norms to promote the desired physical activity rates. It is found that Canada has focused predominantly on creating large building infrastructure and has neglected focusing on shifting social norms from a culture of convenience to one encouraging physical activity as a daily priority in our lives. New Zealand incorporated rugby as a means to promote physical activity within its society at both the national and individual level. Culture is considered the way of life of a group of people. In New Zealand being active is not just a choice but a way of life. Canada has advertised physical activity as an option versus as apart of our culture. Many individuals partake in hockey as a national sport, however finances prove as a major barrier in trying to establish hockey as the national sport of Canada as it can cost parents thousands of dollars between enrolment, training and proper equipment. Children are more interested in having fun and financial berries should not be a hinderance to this. In addition to this, parents should also be educated on the benefits of sport as in some cases, parental apathy may be the biggest stumbling block for children. It has been founded that parents who did not play sports simply say they do not have the time for it or there have no interest in it. These parents pass on those values to their children and as such, those children grow up lacking value for physical activity.
Another key factor to consider is immigration. New families coming to Canada often struggle to achieve economic stability and as participation in sport usually requires economic resources, immigrant children usually face this as a barrier. It is important to note that soccer, field hockey and cricket engagement rates have increased as a result of immigrants. This could be attributed to the fact that these sports are cheaper and easier to perform on daily basis than other sports such as basketball, swimming, downhill skiing and volleyball, just to name a few. In addition, children were found to participate more in sport if their neighbourhoods were considered to be safe. Children and adolescents from low-income neighbourhoods have restricted access to sport/ leisure facilities (Gordon- Larsen, McMurray, & Popkin, 2000) and perceived safety concerns limit their access to neighbourhood play areas (Carver, Timperio & Crawford, 2008; Holt, Cunningham, et al. 2009). Community involvement is an excellent way to incorporate sport into lifestyle as it helps to ensure the safety and well-being of children. This community involvement approach benefits its citizens on both a physical and social scale. A key component to excelling in any sport is the ability to participate in a team setting and showcase leadership skills. Social interaction creates the foundation for these skills and as such children should be allowed to socialize in and around their community with the goal of physical activity in mind. Many parents refrain from allowing their children to play outdoors unattended as it raises the risk of danger and it seems easier to have the child sit indoors watching tv. Increasing community involvement will in physical activity in turn will increase feelings of security and safety, improve social interactions and ultimately increase sport participation.
One fundamental idea that could create a solution to resolve the barrier that finances cause is simply encouraging parents to sacrifice one area of family life/ expense to support sport. Properly communicating what resources are available and their capacities is also important as many parents are unsure of what additional funding resources are available to them ( Holt, 2001). Irregardless of one’s socioeconomic status, ethnicity and geographical region, there should be equal access to opportunity for sport. Many parents find it more convenient to invest in video games and or other means of technology than to find a sports centre to enrol their children in and supply enrolment fees and sports gear. These parents tend to forget that sport investments are long term in nature and most times its greatest benefits are seen through health maintenance. Rather than focusing on the costs associated with sport engagement, parents should look at these expenses as long term health investments as well as a tool for physical, social and cognitive growth.
It is no secret that the prevalences of overweight and obesity are reaching epidemic levels across the world. Between the years 1981 and 1996, the prevalence of obesity among Canadians children aged 7 – 13 tripled from 5% to 15% ( Trembley, 2003). On September 28, 2017, the senate of Canada released what is known as Bill S-228. This act was created to amend the Food and Drug Act by prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children, with hopes to stimulate a decline in the prevalence of these obesity rates. This bill addresses the fact that overweight and obese children are at an increased risk for premature onset of chronic conditions and illnesses. It goes on to put emphasis on the impact being overweight or obese has on the mental health and well being of these children as well as the impact it places on society as a whole through health care spending. Bill S- 228 amends the Food and Drugs Act to give Health Canada the power to define unhealthy food or to set out the criteria for determining whether a food is unhealthy. Sugar drinks and snacks seem to plague the hallways in vending machines everywhere and sporting infrastructures are no different. Energy drinks are placed alongside water and carbonated beverages along with popular Frito Lay brand snacks in vending machines. Unfortunately these beverages and snacks contribute in part to the steady increasing prevalence in overweight and obese children. Bill S- 228 aims to remove these sugar filled mediums however by doing so an important aspect of sport in Canada will be affected, the marketing aspect.
Andre De Grasse, a Canadian Olympic triple medallist has been offered numerous endorsements, from Pizza Pizza to Gatorade. These companies use the face of an olympic medallist to appeal to aspiring athletes through marketing. Bill S- 228 has the goal of eliminating the consumption of these foods and beverages in mind, while marketing teams use these athletes to promote their foods and beverages. A sedentary child watching a regular scheduled show who sees a commercial of Andre De Grasse winning his race after drinking gatorade automatically thinks, “ If I drink gatorade, I will be like him.” The question then arises, “How do we properly utilize our athletes to inspire the rest of the population to become physically active?” Our Canadian athletes who excel nationally and internationally are excellent tools for role modelling to get children moving. The message these athletes portray should emphasize increasing physical activity rather than increasing medal count for the country. The primary goal is to slow the decline in sports participation and physical activity. Ultimately, by increasing the amount of individuals participating in sport, we increase our chances of gaining medals on the international stage.
In a paper written by Trembley (2003), the relation among children’s physical activity, sedentary behaviours and body ass index were examined while controlling for sex, family structure and socioeconomic status. The findings support the intuitive belief that physical activity provides protection from being overweight or obese, while TV watching and video games use are risk factors. These findings support policy initiatives aimed towards increasing physical activity opportunities while decreasing obesity epidemic in Canada. There is strong evidence to suggest that participating in 60 min/d of physical activity will have meaningful health benefits in most children and youth. The guidelines emphasize endurance, flexibility and strength activities as combined a unit to achieve the best results. Additionally health benefits associated with increased physical activity in children and youth include reductions in adipose and blood pressure, and increased bone health, which are greater with vigourous- than with moderate-intensity activities (Strong et al. 2005). Sport training and participation provides a structured way to ensure children and youth are getting the minimum 60 minutes of physical activity per day that is moderate in its intensity nature. This frequent participation will be a stepping stone to decline overweight and obesity rates amongst Canadians.
As a first world country, Canadian government should aim to allocate more direct funding from the federal government as well as improve on communication between national and provincial levels. The Sport Support Program (SSP) is the main funding medium for initiates associated with the delivery of the Canadian Sport Policy. The program operates under the basis of five components: National Sport Organization (NSO), National Multisport Services Organization (MSO), Canadian Sport Centre (CSC), FEeral- Provincial/ Territorial (F- P/T) Bilateral and Other Supporting Initiative (SI). A concern arises regarding sport participation and the Aboriginal community, as well as what funding is allocated to these citizens. It is imperative to note that the federal government does not consider activities like walking, powwow dancing, snowmobiling and many other cultural and recreational pursuits that Aboriginal people enjoy, to be fundable activities as defined by Sport Canada. This creates a major issue and in most cases, policy makers, program managers and advocates for Aboriginal sport rely on anecdotal evidence and data collected from boarder policies and programs that were not intended to address Aboriginal issues specifically ( Forsyth, 2014). The traditional Aboriginal perspective does not distinguish between sport, recreation and physical activity, and therefore is seen as a more holistic ordeal. Some of the barriers to Aboriginal People’s participation in sport are: awareness, economic circumstance, cultural insensitivity, coaching capacity and distance (Winther, 1995) . Based on jurisdiction, there is an ongoing debate over government responsibilities for financial support in the delivery of sport programs in these Aboriginal communities. In an effort to alleviate these barriers ,Sport Canada has developed an Action Plan for the Policy on Aboriginal People’s Participation in Sport. As the federal government is the branch responsible for sport, proper allocation of sporting resources is necessary across all provinces.
This paper has introduced New Zealand as a template for excelling in sport participation. Culture, education the early introduction to physical literacy skills work in conjunction with each other to provide an physically stimulating environment for New Zealanders. For schooled-aged children and youth, high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary behaviour and sufficient sleep each day achieves great health benefits. Hockey is to Canada what Rugby is to New Zealand, a national sport that symbolizes more than just medal count. Rugby is popular across all ages, sectors and races in New Zealand and a large portion of children engage in this sport from an early age, which they continue with up to postsecondary. Canada should aim to make hockey culture a more prominent portion of our sport sector, appealing to immigrants, low income families and Aboriginal peoples.
Parents, adolescents and older individuals should be made aware of what resources are available to them through proper advertising. Immigrants are also highly at risk for falling short of the physical activity guidelines in Canada due to ignorance and socioeconomic status. It may be impossible for a born and raised Canadian to imagine not being able to navigate around a hockey arena, but for immigrants who have missed the necessary physical literacy skills to carry out such an activity, they may feel discouraged to participate. More resources should be made available to these individuals as they can offer culture, team spirit and potentially increase our medal count on the international stage. Careful advertising should be done for programs, initiatives and products, whether it be food, drink or apparel. Using our athletes who receive medals on the international stage can inspire our citizens to participate in sports and once again, can potentially increase Canada’s medal count. The more individuals participate in sport, the higher our chances as a nation are to receive medals. Funding is also an important aspect of Canadian sport and should take into consideration low income families, aboriginal peoples resources as well as infrastructure and supplies necessary to participate in sport. Sport should be implemented as a cultural tool used to bring nations together, improve health care and bring national pride on the international stage.
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