Fitting the pieces together (part 3)

February 27, 2013
A group of soccer players pose for a team photo

In yesterday’s blog post, I made an analogy of the Canadian sport system being similar to a four-legged stool, with each leg representing an important section (participation, high-performance excellence, preparation of competent coaches, and physical literacy). But what about the values in sport?

While the Canadian Sport Policy suggests a list of values extracted from a recent public opinion survey, I would defer to the seven True Sport Principles ( It’s the list of values Canadians have told us, day after day and year after year, is the one they want driving Canadian sport (both sets of values are remarkably similar in any event).

So where then does this piece – the seven True Sport Principles – fit in the stool analogy? Is there a fifth leg on the stool? No. I would argue that the True Sport Principles, the values driving our sport system, are in fact, the material the stool is made of. When the stool is made of the seven True Sport Principles, it is made of oak or some other equally strong and durable material. When any leg of the stool is not constructed from these Principles however, the system and its value are compromised.

Getting the True Sport Principles to drive the development of sport policies and program development, at all levels of sport in Canada, and to guide on the field of play, is no easy task. And, because it is not an easy task, it seems we have decided to not take it on in the Canadian Sport Policy 2012. Instead, the Policy implies that the values/principles Canadians have told us they want driving their sport experience can be achieved through the development of simple codes of ethics or conduct. Anyone involved in sport, at any level, knows from experience that these codes are worthless if they do not drive policy, programming and practices. And precious few, if any, currently do.

Because the task is difficult, and because it requires a fundamental shift in our thinking, should not be reasons to shy away from attempting to get the True Sport Principles into the water supply of our Canadian sport system. It’s time to stop relegating these values to the margins of sport (with their attendant consequences of doping, match fixing, violence, exclusion, harassment, declining participation, etc.) and bring them into the essence of what sport is all about. If we truly want sport to be the valuable public asset it can be for individuals, communities and our country, then let’s roll up our sleeves and tap into the true value of sport.”