PLAY Parkland Group Addressing Physical Literacy in the Community

Parkland PLAY

By Mitch Goldenberg, Spruce Grove Examiner/Stony Plain Reporter
Friday, December 12, 2014 3:51:21 MST PM

More than 20 community members, primarily involved in youth athletics and education, met for the second time on Dec. 10 to continue their pursuit of pioneering a tri-area physical literacy strategy.

Having discussed the problems with the current trends of active living in their first meeting in October, the committee began brainstorming ways to change the mindset, conversation and the habits of teaching and providing kids with physical education.

“We all feel really passionate that kids are not as active today and there are not as many options as we had growing up,” said Jennifer Telfer, wellness co-ordinator at the TransAlta Tri-Leisure Centre (TLC).

The group concluded that today’s youth are lacking the opportunity and instruction necessary to live an active lifestyle.

Too many kids are being driven to practice only one sport or none at all, which severely limits their capability and confidence to participate in diverse physical activities when they grow older.

“We know that our kids love to move and play and be active, but as kids get older they move less and less,” said Felicia Ochs, youth resiliency co-ordinater for the Parkland School Division (PSD). “It’s largely because we’re sending them the wrong messages, we haven’t built their confidence early on to have a wide variety of skills.”

The objective is to get kids feeling more confident with a deeper range of fundamental movement skills that allows them to thrive in a diverse range of sports and physical activities. The hope is that if kids become more competent in a wide-range of sports, actions and movements, they will stick with physical activity when they grow older instead of quitting.

Ochs said the group came away with three main conclusions from their second meeting.

“First, we need municipal stakeholders to join this group, we have community issues here that need to be expressed and understood,” she said. “There is a gap in their community and they play a part in helping families and kids become active members.”

The group also expressed the need to deliver the message that every kid is born an athlete and there are so many different outlets that can harness their child’s physical activity.

“Finally, people are expecting that since the TLC and PSD initiated this, that we have the answer,” said Ochs. “But the truth is the answers are within the community and we need people to try out some stuff, see if it works and prototype it.”

Brian Torrance, director of the Ever Active School’s initiative funded by the Province of Alberta, says the government is taking action to enable and empower groups like this.

“It can lead to more Albertans being more active, more often,” Torrance said. “There’s a wave to making sure our personal and community wellness is a bigger priority than it is right now.”

Telfer expressed the importance of tackling the issue with a group effort.

“It’s really innovative to have these discussions, and we’re taking a cross-dimensional approach, collaborating to have more resources and services offered in schools and the TLC,” she said. “We all want to achieve the same thing for the kids in our community.”

With the next meeting set for February, the physical literacy committee is poised to see their promotion and engagement plans begin to take shape in the new year.