Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/1/2015 (2331 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If you went on the basis of the headlines alone, you might be led to believe youth sport is in crisis.
Allegations of sexual misconduct by players of the University of Ottawa hockey team. On-ice brawls between players and officials in Manitoba. Rampant concussion concerns in a variety of sports. Public disputes over transparency and accountability in Winnipeg youth soccer.
Adding to the concern are the myriad negative stories that never reach the media, but are widely circulated word of mouth through the various sports communities. And chronic concerns about fair play and increasing costs and decreasing accessibility.
'I think the challenge that we're facing now is that all these controversies about sport are at risk of hijacking all the good that they do'‐ Jeff Powell, general manager of the Canadian Sports Centre at the University of Manitoba
For something that is supposed to be so good and have so many positive benefits for our youth, sports has certainly become a troubled field of interest.
Fortunately, with that concern also comes attention from smart people with an interest in fixing all that ails our sports culture.
On Feb. 5 at the University of Winnipeg, a special forum will address all of the challenges facing sports. The forum is called Attack on Sports.
The panel will include Paul Melia, CEO of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and a panel discussion featuring Alex Gardiner, head coach of the 2012 Canadian track and field team, former Olympian Sandra Kirby, lawyer Jeff Palamar and Jeff Powell, general manager of the Canadian Sports Centre at the University of Manitoba.
If the title of the event comes across as a bit alarming, it's only because those involved are concerned negative perceptions about youth sport are reaching a boiling point.
"I think the challenge that we're facing now is that all these controversies about sport are at risk of hijacking all the good that they do," said Powell.
"The forum is a recognition as well that sport has an obligation to manage its own house. Because if we don't, then governments and other external forces will try to do it for us."
The event will not be without a modicum of hope, however. In fact, Powell said one of the main purposes of the forum is to demonstrate to the broader community just how much money and time is being put into finding solutions to the chronic challenges facing sport.
"We know so much more now about how young athletes and younger people in general develop through sport," Powell said. "We just need to come to more of a consensus about how best to manage sport to get those positive results."
In Canada, as in most developed countries, youth sports is caught in an emotional debate about how much of any one activity a young person should undertake, how much emphasis there should be on winning and how much on participation, and how to best develop the elite athletes from the general population. Those interested in developing high-performance athletes are often at odds with those who want to promote greater participation and access, in part to improve health.
Powell said the truth is both camps have more in common than they think. Getting more kids fully involved in a greater variety of sports is not only a good life skill, it also helps provide the best chance for any country to find and develop elite-level athletes.
"We really need to decide what it is we're trying to accomplish in any sport program," said Powell. "If your sport is geared toward winning championships at age 12, and not development for all, then you're going to get a small number of participants moving on to the elite levels. If you have a program that focuses on developing the most kids through to the highest levels, then you're going to get a larger pool of high-performance athletes."
Attack on Sports forum takes place at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 5 at the University of Winnipeg. For more information, or to buy tickets, contact Penny Paul (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 204-632-2810.
Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.