When something important is not valued, everyone loses

September 20, 2012
Basketball Players Relax on the Bench

Imagine if there was something in our communities that reduced teen suicide, reduced teen pregnancy, reduced drug use, reduced obesity, and reduced youth gang and crime involvement. Imagine if that same thing also increased self-esteem, improved academic performance, improved physical and mental health, helped new Canadians integrate into their community, developed important life skills, built character and increased social capital among youth. If there was such a thing, I would like to think that we would protect and nurture it; ensure that it thrived and flourished and that all kids in our communities had access to it. Well, guess what? It does exist – it is called sport. But not just any sport delivers all of these benefits. It is good sport – sport that is values-based and principle-driven – and in Canada, we call that kind of sport True Sport.

Many communities, sport organizations and schools in Canada have joined the True Sport Movement to express their support for the True Sport Principles and to commit to a better sport experience for their athletes. Many schools in Ontario have joined the True Sport Movement.

And then, along comes the battle between the teachers and the Province of Ontario around the latest teachers’ contract. I don’t want to comment on the legislation, collective bargaining, the provincial economy or the working conditions of teachers. Both sides have their points of view and as with any debate, there are merits to the arguments on both sides.

What I do want to observe though, is the relative ease with which this incredibly important public asset we call sport, can be withheld from our youth when we know the powerful benefits it can produce. And, the kids who need it the most can often only find it in school sports. Kids deprived of sport at this time in their lives may never return to sports when the teachers and politicians settle their differences. And if they don’t return, all of the benefits sport could have produced for these kids will be lost forever.

We wouldn’t stand for teachers not teaching math, English, science or other so-called core subjects. But no one is losing much sleep over taking sport away. And this is the saddest part of the work-to-rule action by the teachers. It reflects how little importance we attach to sport in our school system. And yet, think of all those benefits sport can produce. There is no other single subject or activity in our schools or communities that can come close to producing the benefits that sport can. So, why is something so important treated as if it is of such little value?