Empowering community sport: Lethbridge Sport Council leads the way with initiatives aligned with federal measures.
In recent years, Canada's sport system has faced its fair share of challenges, marked by negative publicity, lack of alignment, and the urgent need for change. To address these issues, the Honourable Pascale St-Onge, Minister of Sport, announced new measures on May 11, 2023, aimed at improving accountability and fostering a safe and sustainable culture in sport at the national level.
The new measures introduced by Minister St Onge include good governance practices, a compliance and accountability unit, changes to non-disclosure agreement requirements, athlete involvement in decision-making, maltreatment prevention resources, coach support standards, a public registry of sanctions, and improvements to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada directors’ nomination process.
The negative media at the national level has cast a shadow over the entire system leaving many local sport organizations to deal with the fallout. At the community level, the Lethbridge Sport Council has received funding for four initiatives that align with Minister St-Onge's national measures. These initiatives, under the banner of Lethbridge Game Changers: Empowering People in Sport, address challenges specific to the community.
The first initiative focuses on recruiting and retaining volunteer coaches. Through a partnership with the University of Lethbridge and FSQ Sport, the Lethbridge Sport Council has developed a unique community coach training program called Lethbridge Game Changers: Empowering Coaches in Sport. This program provides year-round support and development in areas such as competence, confidence, character, connection, and culture, enabling coaches to develop exceptional youth athletes.
The second initiative, Lethbridge Game Changers: Empowering Leaders in Sport, offers training and education to local non-profit sport organizations on running successful operations. Topics covered include promotions, marketing, fund development, equity, diversity, inclusion, bidding and hosting, safe sport, board governance, participation barriers, and administrative time management.
The third initiative, Lethbridge Game Changers: Empowering Student Leaders in Sport, engages secondary school students to combat the declining number of sport volunteers, coaches, and officials. The initiative begins with the Southern Alberta Sport Leadership Conference, featuring speaker sessions and action planning. It also introduces the Lethbridge Game Changers: Student Leadership Scholarship, rewarding a graduating student who displayed leadership in community sport during their Grade 12 year.
The fourth initiative addresses the increasing demand and decreasing number of volunteers. Lethbridge Game Changers: Empowering Volunteers in Sport, funded by the Government of Canada Employment and Social Development, will develop a volunteer management system that engages the community to identify barriers, enablers, and motivators. The program will also create a sport volunteer portal to facilitate effective communication and build connections.
At a provincial level, the sport, physical activity, and recreation (SPAR) sector in Alberta has made significant progress by uniting various sub-sectors to better advocate for the importance of sport, physical activity, and recreation to the health and well-being of Albertans. As well, Premier Danielle Smith’s new cabinet announcement included the appointment of MLA for Cardston-Siksika Joseph Schow to a newly formed Ministry of Tourism and Sport. The Lethbridge Sport Council looks forward to Minister Schow's mandate letter after recently signing a Memorandum of Agreement with Tourism Lethbridge.
The sport system in Canada has reached a pivotal moment. The recent announcement by Minister St-Onge, along with the unity demonstrated by Alberta's SPAR sector and the formation of a Ministry of Tourism and Sport, signifies a transformative era. In this context, the Lethbridge Game Changers: Empowering People in Sport initiatives undertaken by the Lethbridge Sport Council play a vital role.
By working collaboratively and empowering individuals, the Lethbridge Sport Council exemplifies the potential for positive change in the sport sector at the community level. This comprehensive approach, spanning the national, provincial, and community levels, holds tremendous potential for positive change in the years to come.