Use double quotes to find documents that include the exact phrase: "aerodynamic AND testing"

Energy crises are further impacting the affordability and accessibility of sport. A coalition of nearly 200 sport bodies, health organizations and athletes in the UK has pressed for additional support to pools, gyms and other sporting facilities. These facilities face a reduction of services or even closure due to rising energy costs.

The increasing cost of youth sport participation has long been a concern for parents and policymakers alike. How issues of affordability show up varies depending upon intersectional realities of income, geography, ability, accessibility of appropriate spaces and more.

The Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment (MLSE) Foundation Change the Game research program, in collaboration with the University of Toronto, engages youth and parents on how issues of access, barriers and equity show up for them. The research is representatively diverse regarding age, gender, race, geography, ability, household income, and whether or not a youth was currently accessing a sport opportunity or not. 

This blog draws on recent insights from the Change the Game open data portal. We reflect on study findings concerning affordability, why it is important to prioritize free or low-cost opportunities when a multitude of barriers exist and share calls to action for sport funders and policymakers. Through reading this blog you will:

Research Insights

A young Black girl in a purple shirt smiles at the camera with hands framing her faceEven in our current context of increasing youth sport access post-pandemic, affordability of programs, geographical accessibility of programs and competition opportunities, and transportation and equipment costs continue to present barriers to sport access. These significant affordability issues combine with health and safety and social factors to leave many youth and communities on the sidelines. As a sector, we’ve re-opened sport, but for who?

MLSE Foundation’s 2022 Change the Game Research Project (published in Fall 2022) explored youth sport access, engagement and equity throughout Ontario to provide actionable data insights for sport funders, providers and researchers. Over 8000 youth and parents of youth aged 6-29 indicated their obstructions to sport engagement.

Cost of programs and equipment was identified as a barrier by 43%. This trend was most notable among youth aged 6-10 and 19-29. The issue shows regional variation, with the deepest affordability issues felt in the Greater Toronto Area and Southwest Ontario. Youth or parents from Northern Ontario were more likely to cite the cost of transportation and capacity to travel as barriers.

Predictably, both household income and (dis)ability represented the strongest demographic relationship to the ability to afford access to sport programs, with more than half of youth from the lowest income bracket reporting cost as a reason why they do not play sports.

The importance of prioritizing free or low-cost opportunities for youth

There is a large portion (43%) of youth and parents who are telling us that the cost of programs and equipment is a barrier. This trend is also most notable among youth aged 6-10 and 19-29, when you are typically entering or aging out of a sport. More than half of youth from the lowest income bracket reported cost as a reason why they do not play sports. Nobody is negatively impacted by increased accessibility, and everyone can experience the life skills sport can teach.

Quazance Boissoneau, a Change the Game research advisor, says:

“Playing basketball in Northern Ontario was hard because there wasn’t many options and then additionally limited because it is female sports. I was able to access an all-girls basketball house league in elementary because of a low-cost program that was $25 for like six weeks and ran at a high school. I was in that exact same stage of entering and exploring a sport and I stayed with basketball because it was fun but also because there wasn’t many other sports for girls to play then hockey.”

What can we do about it: Funder perspectives

Here are 5 approaches sport funders and policymakers can take to support equitable access in the communities they support or are intending to reach in their return to play investments.  

1. Prioritize community-led organizations

In order to create more opportunity in sport, funders should partner with organizations that are led by the demographics they are trying to serve. For example, if you want more Black youth involved in sport, it is important to support Black-led organizations who do sport. Local organizations understand the nuanced perspectives of their communities, and how different aspects of the affordability equitation show up and are experienced by the diversity of their communities. Aim to be local and community-centred to attract the widest range of youth to sport.

2. Prioritize safer spaces

Sport is not always welcoming and safe for youth from intersecting, often marginalized identities. Investing in spaces and programming that center on a single demographic group (for example, Black youth, Girls, 2SLGBTQ+ spaces) can enable the prioritization of operational frameworks on the ground and learning from modalities that best engage and address barriers specific to the perspectives and lived experiences of youth from those communities.

3. Provide unrestricted grants

Most of the time, organizations are skilled in delivering impactful, culturally relevant sport programming in ways that are safe and appropriate for the communities they serve, but these organizations struggle to pay staff and keep the lights on. Operational costs are essential to quality programming. Supporting the people on the ground with fewer budgetary restrictions on how resources can be spent enables additional flexibility to respond to nuanced or unforeseen barriers as they emerge.

4. Give multi-year funding

Girl dribbling basketball wearing a Raptors shirtThe sustainability of good quality programming and retention of skilled coaches depends on continuous funding. If we want to change the dynamic of sport and prioritize culturally relevant programming, we need to think and invest for the long term. Providing organizations with the security of long-term funding enables long term planning and strategies, with a higher likelihood of attracting and retaining young for the long term. In addition, it will benefit youth because they are able to have an environment that is predictable, giving them a sense of safety and security.

5. Focus on reciprocity and consider non-monetary contributions

Build relationships that allow you to understand the need and impact of the work. It shouldn’t be a transactional flow of funds, but rather a symbiotic flow of learning and resources that includes a monetary component. In addition to a monetary investment, what are you doing to support the grantee or partner and the development of the organization to support their ability and sustainability? For example, what opportunities are there to build data capacity, amplify storytelling, and position them as leaders in the space? At times, these non-monetary contributions end up being the most impactful, as it positions the organization for future success, grows awareness of the impactful work they are doing, and supports the sustainability of organizations who already have reach and legitimacy in communities with youth who have been left on the sidelines of sport. 

Concluding thoughts

For providers, funders and policymakers investing to attract new youth to their sport or retaining existing youth within their sport, it is important to consider how barriers to access can vary for youth and families from different lived experiences. The diversity of youth voices challenges us to consider access holistically, including the cost of a space on a team or club, equipment, travel and local transportation, and the culture of spaces and environments. Intersectional challenges necessitate intersectional partnerships which engage communities and local cultural, religious, or social service organizations who are often most knowledgeable and have legitimacy to respond to youth needs if they are supported with the right tools, resources and capacity.


Newcomers to Canada often struggle with feeling like they belong. Sport and physical activity can help foster feelings of belongingness, bringing Canadians of all backgrounds together. Providing newcomers with resources on how to become involved in sport and physical activity at all levels is essential to ensure all sport is inclusive. Sport for Life has a guide for sport organizations to foster supportive environments for newcomers.

The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport’s new publication, “Power of Sport: The True Sport Report” presents research that addresses how community sport contributes to a spectrum of societal goals, including quality education, gender equality, health and well-being, reduced inequalities, and climate action. The report identifies that “how” sport is delivered is key to achieving these benefits, and that for these benefits to be achieved, we need to be intentional in bringing values to the forefront of sport.

Using data can help sport organizations plan quality programs with gender equity at their centre. Data collection can encourage better decision-making, help improve resource allocation, and create buy-in among stakeholders. Online toolkits, such as Same Game, help organizations use data to turn gender equity ideas into reality.

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted girls’ participation in sport and physical activity. Findings from Canadian Women & Sport suggest that 1 in 4 girls are not committed to returning to sport. Involving girls in planning their return to play can be one way to encourage girls’ participation.

Gender-equal boards are associated with higher revenues and more financial resources. In Canadian sport, the number of board members who are women is increasing, with current estimates at 41% representation. That value is encouraging. After all, when at least 30% of board members are individuals from diverse groups, changes toward equality are experienced.

Sport coaches aim to build confidence in their athletes, but coaches need self-confidence to optimize the support they can provide. Mentorship offers a way to develop confidence in Black women coaches, fostering professional development and personal growth and encouraging coaches to be their best selves.

How athletes are portrayed on social media can influence sport participation among girls and women. An analysis of tweets during the 2018 Commonwealth Games shows that gender differences persist in athlete representations. Even seemingly neutral words, like “dedicated” and “hard working,” can have gendered connotations. Strategic use of social media during large sporting events can help foster a more inclusive sports culture.

Sports environments can be unwelcoming for LGBTQ+ youth. According to a national survey, 24.7% of LGBTQ+ youth reported avoiding athletic fields/facilities at school because they felt unsafe and 11.3% reported that they were discouraged from playing sports by faculty members. Promoting safe sports environments for LGBTQ+ youth has been shown to be beneficial for their wellbeing, self-esteem and can help increase their sense of belonging.