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Research shows that new immigrants to Canada who participate in sport and physical activity increase their social networks, improve their health, and better integrate themselves into Canadian society. These findings highlight the importance of critically evaluating ‘Intro to Sport’ programs and their effectiveness in welcoming newcomers to Canadian sport.

The Youth Concussion Awareness Network (You-CAN) is a novel, peer-led program focused on concussion education and awareness for high-school students across Canada. Findings from the use of You-CAN program in school settings show that youth with higher concussion knowledge are more likely to report a concussion to an adult and to provide social support to a peer.

Physical literacy provides youth with the fundamental movement skills to engage in all types of sport and physical activity. It also helps to build self-image, self-concept and self-efficacy. Giving youth the right skills to enjoy movement for the long-term helps them come back and sustain their motivation to participate in sport and physical activity throughout their life.

Over the past 6 months, we’ve seen ongoing news of alleged maltreatment of athletes who compete at national and international levels. These reports of maltreatment in artistic swimming, gymnastics, bobsleigh and skeleton, and most recently boxing have sparked increased discussion by both the sport sector and the public. These reports also led to action by the Government of Canada and countless calls to meaningfully engage stakeholders, specifically athletes, to collaboratively evolve the sport system for the better.

Sport administrators are working in earnest to ensure that sport is safe, welcoming and inclusive. They’re working to that end despite facing heightened demands in terms of increased mandates, podium expectations, stagnant funding, dropping participation rates and intensified public scrutiny. To make positive changes, we must understand our organizational environments and the needs and interests of our stakeholders. Program evaluation and analysis methods are traditionally used by sport and recreation organizations to gain this understanding. However, real-world data and real-world evidence offer another format for understanding the environment and responding to these needs.

Applying real-world data to sport

computer with data analysisThe health sector has begun to use real-world data (RWD) to inform its practices. RWD is an umbrella term for healthcare data collected from various sources in the routine delivery of care, as opposed to what’s collected from strictly conventional randomized control trials (Birkmeyer, 2021; Makady et al., 2017). These RWD sources include patient, clinical and hospital data, public health and social data, and others (Makady et al., 2017). By looking across these data sources, they can use analytics to transform that aggregated data into real-world evidence (RWE) through analytics. In turn, that results in rich and holistic insights that can be used to inform changes in policy and make meaningful decisions about daily practice (Birkmeyer, 2021).

Sport organizers have traditionally used demographics, registration and retention data to inform decision making. They’ve also conducted formal evaluations after finishing programs and events. Although this information is useful, analysis can take considerable time. Plus, the analysis may only happen annually or at a few key points throughout the year, such as between seasons of play. To this end, the concepts of RWD and RWE offer a different perspective in how the sport sector could interpret data and respond to stakeholders’ needs and trends. Incorporating new and different types of data into analysis could allow sport organizers to bridge the real-world experience of stakeholders and respond in real time.

Stakeholder engagement is one RWD source that could present sport organizers a fuller picture of their organization. Stakeholder engagement is the process of listening to, collaborating with or informing stakeholders. These stakeholders would be the groups of people who have an investment in the organization, such as participants and athletes, parents, guardians, caregivers, coaches, officials, volunteers and administrators, partners and sponsors (Ferkins & Shilbury, 2013). This engagement could happen in various informal and formal ways. For example, those ways could include but not be limited to, surveys, focus groups, interviews, personal conversations, polls or simple one-question check-ins.

The various stakeholders who contribute to stakeholder voices include: •	Athletes and participants •	Parents, guardians and caregivers •	Coaches and sport officials •	PTSOs and clubs •	Staff •	Board members

Considerations for doing stakeholder engagement well

  1. Receive feedback openly, without response

To engage in stakeholder engagement well, it’s essential to truly hear stakeholders’ perspectives. It’s equally important to gain a full understanding about all that the stakeholders have to share. It’s best to listen with open hearts, without judgment, and not respond to what’s offered. It can be difficult to receive constructive or critical feedback. It’s also tempting to correct what seems misunderstood. However, reserving comments and rationale for a later point in the process builds an open environment. In an open environment, all perceptions, both positive and negative, are welcomed. That environment lets stakeholders feel heard, which ultimately builds trust.

  1. Consider the format carefully

Consider who will conduct the stakeholder engagement and what their relationship is to the topic of engagement or the organization. Some stakeholders perceive direct involvement of an organization as a conflict of interest or an influence of power. Others won’t feel safe sharing their honest opinions without assurance of anonymity. Therefore, it can be wise to seek facilitators who are independent to the topic or organization.

  1. Develop a plan for reporting back

Your message is heard above social media network noise in speech bubble copy space background.An important part of doing stakeholder engagement well is to develop a process for reporting back on the feedback received. This can happen in a variety of ways, including circulating a summary report, publishing an article in the organization’s newsletter or on its website, posting videos on social media, holding a town hall, or directly contacting those who participated in the engagement.

An engagement report should include a summary of what was heard and the resulting decisions that have been made. It should also discuss if stakeholders shared feedback that didn’t lead to changes being made. It may also be an excellent opportunity to correct any misconceptions that were raised during the stakeholder engagement. Be sure to also report on timelines of any resulting actions, especially if they’re longer-term timelines.

Without completing this step, stakeholders may assume the organization never intended to act on the feedback received. Reporting back demonstrates transparency and integrity to the process.

Final thoughts

Stakeholders have rich insights to share based on their backgrounds, lived experiences and positions within sport. Compared to traditional data, stakeholder engagement offers the ability to glean insights that may not have been available otherwise. Engagement offers a way to answer the call to become more collaborative and to co-create the sport experience with those who are invested in it. Incorporating stakeholder engagement into data collection and engagement may be a real-world data source that enhances our ability to deliver a better sport environment for all. That is, a sport environment where everyone feels safe, welcomed and included.

“I think that sport has unique evaluation opportunities in that you can measure things like confidence. You might not spot that change in confidence unless you measure these skills at baseline and share that information with the kids.” In the SIRC blog, Chris Penrose, Director of Programs and Operations of Lay-Up Youth Basketball, discusses how evaluation findings led to meaningful program improvements.

Research on the experiences of Masters athletes identifies eight “Hallmarks of a Quality Masters Sport Experience“. These include intellectual stimulation, testing and assessing oneself, quality relationships, and feeling validated.

For youth soccer players, injury prevalence and patterns vary with age. A recent study found that injuries tend to increase as players get older. Joint sprains and bone stress injuries are most common in athletes aged 16 to 18, while younger athletes are more prone to growth plate injuries. Tailoring injury prevention measures to age can help coaches reduce injury rates.

This article was originally published by The Conversation on March 20, 2022

The Conversation

The birth of a child is a momentous occasion in a woman’s life. It may also be one of the most challenging transitions that women face, requiring adaptation to identity and role while undergoing a unique physiological transformation.

Physical activity after recovery from birth can be helpful. Women who engage in postpartum exercise tend to have better mental and physical health outcomes. Benefits of exercise for new moms include weight loss, improved aerobic fitness, improved mood and increased social connectedness. However, physical activity rates tend to drastically decline after pregnancy.

Despite the potential positive impact that physical activity may have during the postnatal transition, little academic attention has been given to helping women return to exercise after the birth of a child. As an interdisciplinary research team in sport and physical activity, we have been working to address this gap by exploring women’s postnatal physical activity experiences.

Women’s questions about postpartum exercise

Mother with baby on her back as she does a core exerciseWe asked women what questions they had about physical activity engagement within their first three months postpartum. What they shared about their physical activity engagement parallels what has been identified in research: mothers’ physical activity is reduced with the birth of a child, and primary barriers to engagement include a lack of opportunity.

Women’s questions were fuelled by feelings of uncertainty and confusion about their return to physical activity, asking: How much physical activity should I do? What intensity of exercise is safe for me? What type of physical activity should I engage in? How do I engage in physical activity with my newborn? How will I know if I’ve pushed my body too hard?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology states that women should slowly return to physical activity after giving birth and work their way up to the general physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week. If women have had a surgical birth or tearing during a vaginal birth which required stitches, it may take longer to become active.

Most women were curious about strategies and recommendations for physical activity after the birth of a child, including finding the time, energy and motivation to exercise.

Based on these frequently asked questions, we provide recommendations for supporting women in engaging in postpartum physical activity for two relevant groups:

Since both groups are actively invested in improving community health and well-being, we hope to outline how they can work together to provide accessible, equitable and meaningful physical activity opportunities for postnatal women.

Physicians and health-care workers

Young Mother doing Yoga at HomeIn Canada, the most common health-care experience for new mothers is a six-week followup with their physician or midwife. At this point mothers are told they can return to physical activity if their body has healed appropriately. Unfortunately, most women feel this support is inadequate, stating a need for more information from health-care professionals about guidelines for returning to physical activity.

So, how can physicians and health-care workers better assist these women? Women outlined how best to help them return to physical activity. Since all women do not experience childbirth and recovery the same way, opportunities for equitable and individualized care for postpartum women are essential. This means offering not only extended care beyond the six-week mark, but tailoring care for each woman’s recovery process and physical activity engagement.

Specifically, there is a need for physical activity education by midwives, physical activity counsellors or physicians. Women also recommended that access to a pelvic physiotherapist be a standard part of postnatal care.

It’s important to assess the pelvic floor after childbirth. It is a crucial group of muscles that helps maintain bladder and bowel control, supports internal organs and co-ordinates with the deep core, diaphragm and deep back muscles. These muscles do a lot of the heavy lifting during pregnancy and can be strained during childbirth, requiring rehabilitation.

Additional resources would be valuable to give women tools to develop confidence to return to physical activity. These include safe exercise choices and progressions during the postpartum period; nutrition, hydration and sleep guidelines; exercises that can be done with an infant; and information about child-friendly exercise spaces.

Such information could be packaged in multiple formats — such as pamphlet, website and phone app — and offered as part of the standard package when women are discharged from the hospital following delivery, or at a six-week physician follow-up.

Community leisure service providers

Women in our studies also desired more informational support to join local fitness and community centres. Such involvement meant the chance to meet other mothers and learn more about safe physical activity engagement postpartum. Yet, accessing these programs was often fraught with barriers.

In a study to be published in Health and Fitness Journal of Canada, we found postnatal women wished for individualized and affordable community programming, given the high costs of caring for a newborn. In interviews with mothers after a group exercise program, we found this form of programming to increase community connection, motivation and accountability.

Mothers also said that flexible childcare and attendance options — such as a combination of daycare facilities, classes that accommodate infants and online fitness classes — would support engagement.

Lastly, women spoke about how mothering social groups, resource-sharing between programmers and health-care providers, and maternity consultants for staff can help increase postnatal programming quality, and in turn, participation.

As a society, we can do better to support postpartum women’s physical activity engagement. When women are physically active, they feel physically and mentally well, enabling them to better handle the challenges of motherhood and be positive health role models for their children.

If you are interested in participating in a research study to better understand the experiences of mothers postpartum, please visit this page.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Disclosure statement

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Creative approaches to data collection can be useful for sport organizations to evaluate the effectiveness of youth programs. For example, movement-based methods use the structure or rules of a game to gather feedback from youth about their experience. They can also double as a program activity, helping to save time and keep kids on task. Read more in the SIRC blog.

Unexpected stressors happen often and are more challenging to manage than expected stressors. However, they can be managed. One way to manage them is by expecting them. To help athletes “expect the unexpected” during competition, work with them to identify potential stressors before competition. Then establish strategies to manage those stressors.