May has been proclaimed KidSport Month in Saskatchewan. KidSport is a national charity that envisions all children and youth having the opportunity to experience the benefits of organized sport through participation. Saskatchewan has a provincial chapter, and 40 local chapters throughout the province. Each chapter raises funds, accepts applications, and distributes grants to kids in its own community. The impact is incredible. Nationally, $40+ million has been raised over the past five years, providing assistance to 188,000 so that they can participate in a season of sport. In the past 25 years in Saskatchewan, over $13 million has been raised, supporting over 150,000 kids and youth. If your community doesn’t have a KidSport chapter, you can start one!
The Benefits of Sport for Kids
Sport has many benefits for kids. Kids who participate in more physical activity have more focus, motivation, and energy to succeed in school and reach post-secondary education than those who don’t. Sport cultivates leaders. When kids participate in sport, they practice teamwork and collaboration and build confidence to become leaders. Sport creates safer communities – kids who participate in organized sport are less likely to be involved in organized crime. This keeps our communities safer for all. Physical activity and sport participation among children and youth has a positive impact on overall mental health and wellbeing.
Sport Facilitates Belonging
It unites individuals, families, neighbourhoods and communities together as players, volunteers, spectators and advocates. Sport connects people across geographic, economic, ethno-cultural and other boundaries. Also, it connects vulnerable people and groups with networks, information, and services. Sport equips kids with a sense of belonging and teaches them how to include others. Sport encourages active citizenship for people of all ages, fosters trust, reciprocity, and a sense of security and belonging among community members. More than ever, we need more belonging.
Where the Pandemic Has Left Us
A recent survey by Jumpstart found that 74% of parents of kids aged 4 to 18 say their kids are feeling isolated and lonely. 64% of responding parents said their kids are finding it hard to reduce stress and anxiety, and 69% of responding parents said their kids are showing signs of being less physically fit. Parents also expressed concern over their children’s decreased self-motivation and self-esteem, and trouble regulating emotions.
The sites where kids participate in sport, community sport organizations, are facing grim realities. At the time of the survey, 3 in 10 sport organizations were temporarily or indefinitely closed. 6 in 10 sport organizations were attempting to run modified programming. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, a third of sport organizations have bankrupt or approaching bankruptcy. Half of community sport organizations not permanently closed are concerned that they will have to permanently close in 2021 as a result of the pandemic. And more than three-quarters of all sport organizations believe it will take more than 6 months for the recreational sport sector to return to a pre-covid state.
Let's Celebrate KidSport
This is why I believe it’s great that May has been proclaimed KidSport Month in Saskatchewan. Although many organizations are concerned over their ability to provide programming in 2021 and to provide the same level of service to the communities they serve, the vast majority (87%) of parents said their kids are very much looking forward to the return to sports and recreational play. KidSport Month brings visibility to sport and to the charity. If we use participant-centred decision making when determining how we will return to sport, and give consideration to the systemic barriers to sport and play for many in our communities, we will be able to bring sport back better than it was before. We will be able to rally around sport, facilitate belonging, and ensure that All Kids Can Play.