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Sport is a Powerful Tool to Belonging and Wellness

by Brian Torrance Ever Active Schools | May 26 2016

The Work

Ever Active Schools is currently working with Treaty 7 communities to build capacity in sport and physical activity initiatives. The work has been powerful in many ways to the community and people involved. As identified in the Truth and Reconciliation report, sport and physical activity are areas of resilience, which creates a sense of belonging.

I believe this is true for any community and can be applied to any setting you as wellness champions are placed in. Here is a summary and some key lessons learned that could be applied in many workplaces and life settings. On a personal note, I am honoured to have permission to tell this story from the communities and I am grateful for the many friendships made through this endeavor. 

Purpose

The purpose of the project was to use sport within First Nations communities to increase attendance and graduation rates in Treaty 7 school communities. Sport can act as motivation to keep youth involved with school through social engagement, the development of character, team camaraderie and engage in positive activities away from complexities within the community. Through sport and physical activity, students learned about self-empowerment and about feeling good about oneself. Sport provided opportunities for independence and success. 

This can be directly applied to the work you do with colleagues and collaborators in your sessions. How can you keep people engaged in their work and motivate them to do a good job?

The Circle of Courage

The messaging and structure of the project was based upon Dr. Martin Brokenleg’s Circle of Courage. This model, based on the universal principle that to be emotionally healthy you need a sense of belonging, mastery, independence and generosity all plays into positive youth development. The Circle of Courage integrates the cultural wisdom of tribal peoples, the practical wisdom of professional pioneers with youth, and the findings of modern youth development.

Sport is Existing Infrastructure 

This is a good example of examining strengths in communities and making them better. Building upon a rich history of sport and physical activity within Treaty 7, the project highlighted additional values:

  • Sport is a strength-based approach to resiliency and engagement of learning in First Nations Schools.
  • Sport is a safe and welcoming place for students.
  • Sport builds on the strengths individuals and teams already have to elevate them to new heights.

This holds true for you and your colleagues. Not only does sport and physical activity aid your group in camaraderie, it helps build trust in your team and develop deeper relationships built on honesty and healthy group dynamics.

Next Steps

School sport embedded into the school community is an ideal start to address complex community issues. Schools play a central role in all communities. They give youth a sense of belonging and often provide shelter, food and comfort that may not be available at home. Schools carry a heavy load in the community, yet with the collaborative support from other community partners, they can do amazing things. This projects’ direction builds upon the existing infrastructure of school sport to explore novel ways to engage youth in sport and other activities. Sport is a passion within these communities. Building on this passion, the communities are confident that they can engage and support many more children and youth on their journey to a healthy future.

Take-Aways

As the United Nations on Sport for Development and Peace states, sport has a unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire. By its very nature, sport is about participation. It is about inclusion and citizenship.

Not only can the above case study help youth feel connected with their schools and community, it helps bring us as wellness champions together with our colleagues and partners we work with. I encourage you all to think of ways that physical activity can connect you with those around you, enhancing the good work you do. Can you organize a quarterly soccer match amongst your colleagues to break up a professional development day? Or gather a walking group after a session to stretch the legs and chat about your upcoming weekends? The sense of connection and community brings people together in more ways than we think. So, encourage your peers and partners to physical activity, not only for the betterment of the group’s mental and physical health, but for the community you help flourish.

Brian Torrance

As Director of Ever Active Schools (EAS) and relentless supporter of health and wellness in all respects, Brian is committed to addressing comprehensive school health issues through his work with EAS. So it’s particularly embarrassing for Brian that he’s unable to throw a Frisbee. That said, he’s made up for this ten-fold through the achievement of his crowning glory: a six-minute “beer mile.”