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The Sport Information Resource Centre

In 2021, the Government of Canada announced it would invest $80 million to support increased participation in organized community sport, particularly among underrepresented groups including Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQQIA+ and new Canadians. Careful planning is required to enhance these groups’ participation opportunities in community sport. Sport leaders can use strategic planning as an important tool for when sport clubs seek to attract new members.

As the effects of climate change continue to grow, so do its effects on local sports. A recent study found that community-level sport clubs are particularly vulnerable to extreme climate events through damage to playing fields, increased injury risks, and increased operating costs. Adapting sport management practices to counter these changes will be critical for local sport organizations to demonstrate resilience.

This blog post provides a recap of the third webinar in the 4‑part mini-series Engaging Girls and Women in Sport. SIRC and Canadian Women & Sport co-hosted the mini-series, which you can access or learn more about by visiting our SIRC Expert Webinars page.

Black girls and women face significant hurdles as athletes and coaches. Those hurdles are on top of barriers faced by all women and girls in sport. By engaging and empowering Black coaches in the community, you can have an immense impact on the positive sport experiences of young Black girls and women. In this webinar, panelists explored the lived experience of Black community coaches. The panelists discussed ways to decrease barriers and increase support for Black youth and adults to coach at the community level.

Webinar panelists included:

Q: Why is the representation of Black women and girls in coaching important, especially at the community level and how can we achieve it?

Black female volleyball coach with her athletesAll panelists agreed that representation is essential for Black coaches. As Shauna Bookal put it, “See It. Be It. Achieve It. One of the main reasons why young Black girls do not get involved in sport is they do not see someone they can relate to.”

Having role models is especially important for young athletes. Role models not only build connections, but also provide athletes with guidance and help shape their life trajectories. Representation in coaching can be especially important at the grassroots level.

“It was great to have someone who understood what I was going through and understood what I had to face every day to make it out of my neighbourhood. I realized I was blessed to have a Black male coach to start with and then a Black female coach in my teenage years when I needed a role model.”

Shauna Bookal

One way to achieve better representation, according to panelists, is by increasing opportunities available for Black coaches and athletes. Another way is to foster interest and participation in administrative and management roles. Providing funding and scholarships, creating mentorships and focusing on early engagement can all help to move closer to this representation goal.

Q: What are unique barriers Black women and girls may face when getting involved in community coaching?

Some challenges that may discourage Black women and girls from becoming community coaches include language, accessibility and costs, as well as social norms.

Language is an important way to build inclusion. Participation levels are going to suffer if participants aren’t able to understand the language that’s used in coaching programs when it contains unfamiliar vocabulary and terms.

“…some of the language barriers are words I didn’t see on a regular basis growing up. I know for some people… if they get frustrated about what they’re trying to read or what you’re trying to say, that can turn [them] off.”

Shauna Bookal

The cost of participating in coaching programs can be a significant barrier for some participants. Other individuals may not be able to take time off from work to attend full-day courses. In addition to registration fees, access to programs can also be limited by physical barriers (such as getting to venues) and virtual barriers (limited access to computers, tables or the Internet). Finally, not knowing about available programs and opportunities is another limiting factor. “Allowing people to have the opportunity [and] making people aware of the opportunities [are] crucial,” says Mariah Wright.

Too often, Black coaches face the unique challenge of being compared to other coaches who aren’t Black. For example, their differences from traditional coaching styles are labeled as incorrect. “You can’t fit a circle in a square hole,” emphasizes Shauna Bookal. “You can’t have me be like all the other coaches [who] are out there because we aren’t the same.”

Q: What can be done to better support and increase representation of Black women and girls in coaching roles and as athletes at the national level?

Canadian thrower Camryn Rogers throws during the Women's Hammer Throw finals during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Tuesday, August 03, 2021. Photo by Mark Blinch/COC *MANDATORY CREDIT*The panelists identified several areas where changes would have the most impact.

  1. Financial support and community outreach

Cost is a major barrier. If sport organizations can offer funding for individuals from marginalized communities to pursue coaching careers, especially over the long term, many of these individuals would welcome such support. In addition to financial support, organizations can enact change by cultivating symbiotic relationships. For example, hosting free clinics in communities, with the people who participate in these clinics volunteering in return, will benefit everyone and can increase community involvement and sport participation.

  1. Understanding Black culture and experiences

Recognizing Eurocentric biases in traditional coaching programs and certifications is another way of supporting representation. Panelists emphasized that coaching Black athletes can be significantly different from coaching athletes of other backgrounds. It’s important for coaches to understand Black culture and Black athletes’ experiences. Education programs can help address this for coaches.

“Black hair is a story on its own and in gymnastics, there is a typical hairstyle: a slicked back bun [that] you have to make nice and tight. Curly afros cannot do that. It hurts us to be able to do that. So, understanding that when you have a mandatory hairstyle that one Black girl cannot do, that now affects self-esteem. It starts adding in more things that’s not even dealing with our sport or the actual competition. It is so important to understand culture.”

Brittnee Habbib
  1. Engaging Black parents, guardians and communities

To help build diversity in sport, engage Black parents, guardians and communities. Engagement can help them see value in participating in sport and give them confidence that their child will be safe in that environment.

Q: What’s the appropriate and respectful language that sport organizations should be aware of and use around the Black community?

Asking your stakeholders is the best approach, say the panelists. Everyone’s different and it’s disrespectful to assume you know what’s respectful, as assumptions are often driven by societal stereotypes.

“If you don’t know, ask questions… Even if you have four Black athletes in your program, don’t just ask one and assume all of them want to be called the same thing. Humble yourselves and ask questions.

Brittnee Habbib

The language that coaches use can have a tremendous impact on the athlete, both positive and negative. For this reason, “as coaches, we need to be more intentional [and] speak with purpose when we do talk to our girls,” says Mariah Wright.

Q: How can community sport organizations engage Black communities to develop inclusion?

Clubs need to do their research and understand how they can best interact with the community. There are many avenues to build engagement. Clubs can participate in events, such as Family Day or Sports Day, or work with schools, established groups and local community centres. Another strategy can be organizing “try-it” days to let children try sports and providing information for parents and guardians to address common concerns. Clubs need to be proactive in helping families navigate barriers to participation, from cost to transportation to programs. Finally, a powerful way to reach out to Black communities can be by identifying allies and promoters, especially within the Black community, who can talk about the sport programs and their benefits.

This webinar highlighted some of the barriers that Black girls and women experience in sport. It also shared ways that organizations and individuals can increase support for Black athletes and coaches. The conversation among the panelists emphasized the need to have broader discussions about the lived experiences of Black coaches and athletes. These discussions can be an important step toward creating much-needed changes across sport communities.

About the panelists

Find out more about the webinar panelists, access a recording of the Engaging Black Community Coaches webinar or learn more about the Engaging Girls and Women in Sport mini-series by visiting the SIRC Expert Webinars page.

About Canadian Women & Sport

Canadian Women & Sport is dedicated to creating an equitable and inclusive Canadian sport and physical activity system that empowers girls and women. The aim is to empower them as active participants and leaders, within and through sport. With a focus on systemic change, we partner with sport organizations, governments and leaders to challenge the status quo and build better sport through gender equity.

Tell, teach, and track. Those are the 3 Ts of concussion awareness and education, according to David Hill, a program coordinator at the Castaway Wanderers Rugby Football Club. For more great tips on how to get your organization’s concussion initiatives off ground, check out the stories and ideas of community sport organizations from across Canada in the SIRCuit.

Sport leaders can use strategic planning to help identify their organization’s current position, where it plans to go, and how it intends to get there (O’Brien et al., 2019). Strategic planning has been linked with improved organizational change processes as well as enhanced organizational effectiveness, resilience and performance (for example, Hu et al., 2014; Liao & Huang, 2016). And in the community sport setting, strategic planning can help reduce problems related to financial health, uncertainty around a club’s future, and recruitment and retention of volunteers (Wicker & Breuer, 2014).

Although leaders of community sport organizations increasingly recognize the importance of strategy, the planning process can be challenging. Even before the COVID‑19 pandemic, many community sport organizations were grappling with organizational issues such as difficulty recruiting and retaining volunteers, facility costs, and increased competition for funding. These challenges may reinforce a problem-solving style that’s reactive and pragmatic, rather than proactive and strategic.

Leaders of community sport organizations have the opportunity to reshape and reimagine club priorities that serve the needs of members and the broader community. It’s timely that the federal government recently announced it would invest $80 million to support increased participation in organized community sport, particularly among underrepresented groups including Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQQIA+ and new Canadians (Canadian Heritage, 2021). Careful planning is required to enhance these groups’ participation opportunities in community sport. Sport leaders can use strategic planning as an important tool for when sport clubs seek to attract new members.

This blog identifies 4 steps that can help guide club leaders as they begin the strategic planning process.

Step 1: Talk to stakeholders

Diverse team of sport leadership professionalsBefore engaging in strategic planning, sport leaders should first talk with their club’s stakeholders. Stakeholders include the board of directors, other key volunteers such as coaches and officials, staff such as executive directors and administrators, and of course club members. Engaging in a discussion about stakeholder values and priorities can help sport leaders understand what these stakeholders expect from the club moving forward. In learning about stakeholder expectations, sport leaders are better equipped to ensure stakeholder priorities and the strategic plan are well aligned. This alignment is critical for generating internal support for the plan, which affects whether the strategic plan can be successfully implemented.

Step 2: Evaluate club resources

Picture of a sport facilitiesThe second step is to consider the resources that can be dedicated to strategic planning. In light of resource constraints, this second step helps ensure the resulting plan can be scaled to a level that’s achievable and realistic. Resources include:

Step 3: Consider the community profile

Before developing strategic priorities, sport leaders should spend more effort in understanding the community that their club operates within. This is particularly important because the demographics of a municipality will affect who accesses sport programming. For example, leaders of clubs operating in areas with rising home prices have reported that younger families with children are priced out of the housing market, and as a result, it’s hard to recruit young players to join their clubs. Although changes in a community profile can challenge sport leaders to re-think and modify the programs they’ve offered in the past, changes can also present new opportunities for growth, innovation and diversification. As club leaders uncover how their community profile looks, they may also find new groups that they can tap into, such as new Canadians and older adults.

Step 4: Examine the competition

Video conference in the business team meeting during Covid-19As sport leaders begin their strategic planning process, they can get a baseline by understanding the different options of sport-specific programs available in the local community through other clubs and organizations (for example, academies, municipal government, YMCA). Knowing the cost to participate in similar programs at other clubs, as well as the proximity to organizations that offer the same sport may prompt sport leaders to consider what seems to be working well for other clubs and whether their club needs to work to differentiate itself from other clubs offering similar programs. Community sport organizations that are operating in an environment with a high degree of competition among clubs may need to be more proactive with respect to developing new and innovative ways to attract and retain members.

Strategic planning for future growth

Overall, strategic planning can be a helpful tool in navigating changing and dynamic environments, particularly as community sport organizations begin the process of recovery post-COVID‑19. By considering the 4 listed steps, sport leaders will be better positioned to ensure that their strategic planning efforts are more effective in helping them meet their organizational goals and grow their membership.

For more information about this research, please contact Kristen Morrison at kristenamber.morrison@utoronto.ca

Earlier this year, SIRC launched Community Activation Grants to help communities across Canada recover from COVID-19 through Safe Sport opportunities. Discover how sport organizations from coast to coast are using the grants to activate Safe Sport and concussion awareness initiatives in their communities in the SIRCuit.

Urban Indigenous youth face several barriers when accessing sport and physical activity programs, including experiences of racism and a lack of supportive networks. All-Indigenous programs that prioritize the needs of Indigenous youth and offer opportunities for coaching and mentorship from trained, culturally sensitive leaders may help to reduce these barriers.

Professional sports teams play an important role in bringing local communities together. For example, by participating in vaccination initiatives and building relationships with local youth soccer clubs, the Halifax Wanderers Football Club became an integral part of the Halifax community during the pandemic. Read the SIRCuit to find out more about how professional sport organizations are building their communities.


Highlights


In May 2021, the Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC) announced the launch of its Community Activation Grants. This program supports sport organizations in developing and disseminating concussion and Safe Sport resources in Canadian communities.

The launch was set against the backdrop of the Government of Canada’s commitment to reactivate local sport organizations, after the COVID‑19 pandemic’s devastating financial, social and health-related effects.  In its 2021 federal budget, the government allocated $80 million over 2 years to support local sport organizations.

One issue that’s been at the forefront for sport organizations during the pandemic has been ensuring a Safe Sport environment as participants return to play. With the Safe Sport movement growing rapidly at the national and provincial levels, the Community Activation Grants are aimed at further growing the movement in local sport communities.

Successful applicants each received a grant of up to $5,000 and access to SIRC’s evidence-based resources. With SIRC’s support, grant recipients are championing resources that promote concussion awareness and safety in sport at a time when Canadians are returning to play.

We spoke with 6 grant recipients about the importance of Safe Sport and concussion awareness for their organizations, and about the initiatives their grants helped them build. Learn more about how Pickleball Hamilton, Soccability Canada, Freestyle BC, the Edmonton North Zone Soccer Association, the Castaway Wanderers Rugby Football Club and the Ottawa Sport Council are activating Safe Sport in their communities. They also share how you can jumpstart Safe Sport and concussion awareness in your community.

Spotlight 1: Pickleball Hamilton

Pickleball is a relatively new and rapidly growing sport with Pickleball Canada only having been incorporated within the last 10 years.

In 2020, a Pickleball Hamilton member fell while playing pickleball. While undergoing testing to diagnose a suspected concussion, an MRI revealed an undetected cancerous tumour that could have been life threatening. But it wasn’t just the tumour that came as a surprise. As a non-contact sport, concussions aren’t typically top of mind for pickleball players.

“This incident heightened our club’s awareness of concussion in the sport, but also revealed a knowledge gap among members and the wider pickleball community that needs to be filled,” says Matt Cunningham, Director of the Pickleball Hamilton Association.

That’s why receiving this grant and its timing was so important for Pickleball Hamilton.

“Thanks to the grant, we’re embarking upon a concussion prevention and awareness campaign that’ll both inform and protect our members,” he says.

The grant is supporting the creation of 6 short videos, each demonstrating real, on-court errors that could lead to concussions and about how to prevent them. Pickleball Hamilton already completed 2  of the videos, demonstrating how to safely retrieve a lob when playing singles and how to retrieve one when playing doubles.

“These videos are being talked about within our membership. That’s an early success that wouldn’t have been realized without the Community Activation Grant,” says Cunningham.

The videos will also complement concussion awareness posters to be displayed prominently at courts in the Hamilton area.

Using SIRC’s concussion resources, Pickleball Hamilton is working on its concussion policy and protocols. As a newer racquet sport with work to be done on concussion awareness and education, it’s leading the way at the community level.

Spotlight 2: Soccability Canada

Like Pickleball Hamilton, receiving the Community Activation Grant was a big first step for Soccability Canada. Spanning the country, Soccability provides accessible soccer programs for children and youth with disabilities. Officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in November 2020, Soccability is excited to use the grant to launch its concussion policies and initiatives.

“Receiving the grant was especially meaningful because of the recognition it provides to the organization, to Para sport and to Para sport concussion research,” says Matt Greenwood, Soccability Canada’s Program Director.

He discussed the lag in concussion research and policy for Para sport. Until recently, the International Concussion in Sport (CIS) consensus papers lacked the research necessary to address the needs of children and youth with disabilities. For this reason, and to ensure appropriate concussion treatment is provided to Para athletes, a multidisciplinary team of experts created the concussion in Para sport (CIPS) group.

Learn more about concussion in Para sport and the first position statement of the CIPS group in a SIRCuit article led by CIPS member Dr. James Kissick.

The grant provides Soccability with a starting point to consult and gain access to CIPS research experts. Greenwood was particularly enthusiastic about putting new Para sport concussion research into practice through the development of new protocols, educational videos and infographics. These resources will target several different stakeholders in the Soccability community.

“Soccability athletes are often accompanied by companions, which means that concussion initiatives targeting not just the athletes and coaches, but also parents, guardians, family members and companions are also important,” says Greenwood.

Soccability is currently in the design and development phase of many of its concussion and Safe Sport initiatives. Greenwood is excited to have their programs back up and running and is confident that the grant help spread awareness of concussion in their organization. Along with access to SIRC’s resources and new research, the grant is a major asset to growing Soccability and concussion education not only within the organization, but within Para sport more broadly.

Spotlight 3: Freestyle BC

Action shot of a freestyle ski athlete doing a trick in the air.Freestyle BC offers freestyle skiing programs in British Columbia, ranging from a fundamentals program that is designed for skiers as young as 6 years of age to high performance programs that support the best freestyle skiers in Canada to their flagship GirlStylerz program. Given the nature of the sport, freestyle skiing comes with risks that may lead to head injuries and concussions.

According to Executive Director Josh Dueck, Freestyle BC’s goal is to “create a barrier-free environment for all athletes to feel safe, welcome and included.” The funds from the grant are allowing Freestyle BC to continue its path to this goal and enhance their existing suite of services and resources.

Specifically, the grant has given the organization the capacity to work with experts of concussion, biomechanics, and mental health. In turn, Freestyle BC has refined its resources for athletes, coaches, and parents and guardians. The grant also supported access to experts in web design and communication who’ve helped Freestyle BC share this information in the most effective way with all members.

“We’re working on 5 critical resources for our community to draw upon to ensure our vision is achieved. No pillar in our commitment to Safe Sport stands alone, and each pillar needs to be guided and supported by experts,” says Dueck.

Once the materials for each of the pillars are in place, he says the plan is to “take full advantage of a captive audience at the annual general meeting in September.” They’ll summarize what’s available and expected as they shift Freestyle BC’s culture toward that of Safe Sport.

Overall, the grant has provided Freestyle BC with a launching pad to activate its concussion and Safe Sport initiatives. The funding has also helped to ensure that member clubs are in the best position to deliver safe, meaningful, and inclusive programs in the upcoming winter.

Spotlight 4: Edmonton North Zone Soccer Association

As part of the Edmonton Minor Soccer Association (EMSA), the Edmonton North Zone Soccer Association (EMSA North) is working toward achieving the national standards for Safe Sport outlined by Canada Soccer. Like most sport organizations, the pandemic halted EMSA North’s programs, requiring the organization to rethink how it operates.

“As we moved to re-opening, we really did a focused shift to try and provide a safe return and much of that includes education, particularly starting at the coaching level,” says Kylee Webster, Executive Director of EMSA North.

To support a safe return to play, the association is working with its governing body to obtain club licensing.

“Club licensing means we meet the National Standards of Quality for soccer, and we’re able to deliver a carefully thought-out program with highly trained volunteers,” says Webster.

The grant supports the licensing, which will focus on coach education. In particular, the grant will fund courses on concussion awareness, respect in sport, and making ethical decisions. It will also pay for the training of more than 150 coaches in the association.

“We’re focusing on coach training at this time because we feel this is the quickest stream to assist our association in a safe return to sport,” says Webster. “Coaches are on the field with players. They communicate directly with parents. That knowledge transfer is paramount to fostering a safe program.”

The association is buying course keys and will distribute them to cover the expenses for non-trained head coaches to further their education. In the meantime, EMSA North is using its social media platforms and newsletters to publish awareness posts, answer questions and provide information to coaches.

“Great resources have already been provided to [us] from SIRC concerning information and promotion of Safe Sport. We have and we will continue to use as many of these resources as possible to promote coach education and player education,” she says.

Spotlight 5: Castaway Wanderers Rugby Football Club

Concussion education and awareness are typically top priority in sports like rugby, where contact isn’t just inevitable, but a main element of the game. For this reason, clubs like the Castaway Wanderers (CW) in Victoria, British Columbia, are developing and promoting concussion and Safe Sport initiatives.

But after a lengthy stint away from the game because of COVID‑19, athletes must be reintroduced to effective techniques for preventing injuries during contact. This is a new challenge for sports like rugby.

“The ability to help athletes return to play in a safe manner is paramount for what we’re trying to do,” says David Hill, CW’s Mini Rugby Program Coordinator. “I think when you’ve players that haven’t had [any contact] for 15 months, if not more, it’s going to be challenging.”

While concussion initiatives have always been a part of CW Rugby, the SIRC grant will fund a new, post-pandemic era of return-to-contact campaigns. One such campaign is what Hill calls the “3 Ts.”

The first T is for “Tell.” Concussion symptoms may be more easily hidden than other injuries. So, athletes might keep quiet about a head injury if, for example, they fear they’ll be removed from play. That’s why spreading awareness about the importance of speaking up and encouraging athletes to tell someone is the first step.

“If you’re not telling at least your coach that you suspect a head injury, then you’re putting not only yourself at risk, but maybe some others at risk,” says Hill.

The second T is for “Teach.” For this component, CW focuses on how they’ll teach return to contact. This includes purchasing equipment, such as tackle bags, to teach contact technique while limiting human-to-human contact, according to Hill. CW Rugby also plans to host a Safe Sport and return to contact professional development session with coaches before the fall season starts.

The third T is for “Track.” Knowing players’ concussion history is important for decision-making. However, currently, there’s no system in place at CW Rugby for tracking this information. Some funds from the grant will be put toward a tracking system.

“It’s important from a club perspective that we set up something, so we know who’s sustained concussions over a period of time and so that we’re better informed,” says Hill.

Spotlight 6: Ottawa Sport Council

The Ottawa Sport Council (OSC) supports more than 750 community sport organizations in Ottawa. Through education, advocacy, and philanthropy, it strives to foster quality sport experiences at the community level. But, as Executive Director Marcia Morris states, education is perhaps its biggest task.

“At the end of the day, funding for community sport often gets forgotten in all the initiatives that get rolled out from Sport Canada,” says Morris. “So, we’re really interested in the grant to help promote SIRC’s resources, but also to amplify the work that we’re doing and have already done, and pull it all together to make community sport safer.”

Prior to the pandemic, OSC had major concussion education programs and resources ready to roll out. However, with minimal in-person sport activity over the past year, the focus became finding new ways of dispersing information to those who need it.

Ottawa Sport Council Concussion Education Video – August 2020

One outcome of the OSC’s “pandemic pivot” was its successful Concussion Education Initiative video. Another is its online Safe Sport toolkit. Currently in design, the toolkit is meant to be a user-friendly resource for any sport or organization. It will provide bite-size pieces of information sectioned into different “drawers” (for example, policies, minimum training requirements, and resources). The goal of the toolkit is to ensure that every sport gets the information it needs.

“Some sports weren’t getting any Safe Sport information from their NSO [National Sport Organization], and others are way beyond in their policies. So, everybody’s at a different part of their journey,” says Morris. “The whole point [of the toolkit] is that you can hop in and just look at one drawer. But, all the drawers will be available for the people who don’t have that luxury of being a well-funded, well-defined sport.”

The grant from SIRC is helping to launch the Safe Sport toolkit. It will serve as a major asset for community sport organizations, especially those looking to start or fill in gaps in their concussion and Safe Sport initiatives.

Conclusion

Our conversations with some of SIRC’s Community Activation Grants recipients unearthed stories of resilience, success and innovation within community sport. After the abrupt and extended disruption by the pandemic, the grants provided many recipients with the boost they needed to get their Safe Sport and concussion awareness programs up and running. For others, the grants provided additional capacity and support while pivoting existing initiatives to align with pandemic restrictions.

When we interviewed grant recipients, several also shared suggestions for how other community sport organizations could enhance their Safe Sport and concussion awareness initiatives, or simply get them off the ground. Top tips include:

Aligning with the federal government’s commitment to reactivate local sport organizations as they recover from the COVID‑19 pandemic, SIRC’s Community Activation Grants provided support to community sport organizations moving toward national standards for concussion safety and Safe Sport.

According to David Hill of CW Rugby, fostering Safe Sport environments is a sure bet for enhanced sport performance:

“The biggest thing about sport safety is that it’s a performance enhancer. The safer [an athlete] feels the more they can push the envelope on performance.”

Recommended resources

Learn more about the Community Activation Grant recipients.

Discover SIRC’s concussion in sport resources.

Explore SIRC’s Safe Sport hub.

“Senior decision-makers in community sport organizations need to create opportunities for program leaders to share their experiences and knowledge. Staff know the barriers and challenges experienced by participants, but those barriers and challenges can persist if insights aren’t filtered up the organizational hierarchy.” – Amina Haggar, a University of Ottawa graduate student, shares insights from her research on the sport experiences of second-generation African Canadian girls.