Sport for Life Leaders School – A Catalyst for Quality Sport

Five years ago, we launched Sport for Life Leaders School to help build a new kind of leader for a new kind of Canadian sport. We believe in quality sport based on the Long-Term Athlete Development Framework, delivered with a focus on the holistic development of each individual, using a developmentally appropriate approach that puts a priority on long-term success over short-term gains. Five years in – with over 70 participants from across Canada, and this year our first international participant – we can see how Leaders School has proven to be a catalyst for quality sport.

Leaders School participants are selected in part on the plans they propose to plan, launch and lead projects that advance quality sport or physical literacy in their community or organization. After the annual opening session at the Sport for Life Canadian Summit, we convene monthly for web-based seminars conducted by leading Canadian sport and community development experts. Participants discuss, share and explore ideas and progress on their projects, and are guided and mentored by Sport for Life leaders and experts. At the end of the year, the record of each project becomes a new contribution to knowledge of how to advance Sport for Life.

We have some great examples and stories to share from sport and physical activity. Our leaders have implemented Long-Term Athlete Development-based programs at the provincial and community levels in sports and physical activity including dance, lifesaving, speed skating, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, soccer, sport climbing, track and field, and volleyball. In different years our group has included leaders from national sport organizations (NSOs), provincial/territorial sport organizations (P/TSOs), provincial sport federations, and school sport. To list just a few of our leaders and their great projects:

  • Lucinda Jagger, Meredith Gardner and Tami Mitchell (2015) who collaborated on developing a Whistler Sport for Life community plan centred at the Whistler Sport Legacies facilities and programs;
  • Spider Jones (2015) who developed a “Welcome to Sport” video for LGBTQ athletes in the Northwest Territories;
  • Vanessa Lodge (2015) who worked to bring Long-Term Athlete Development and Sport for Life into Indigenous communities in Ontario;
  • Stephanie Spencer (2016) who, working with Sport Nova Scotia, developed a multi-sport, multi-partner program for youth sport development in Antigonish region;
  • Jason Hansford-Smith (2014), also of Sport for Life, who aligned programs using Long-Term Athlete Development and Sport for Life principles at the Halifax Canada Games Centre;
  • Christina Acton (2013) who integrated Long-Term Athlete Development into Speed Skating BC’s youth development program.

Although Leaders School participants are leaders to begin with – often in NSO, PTSO, municipal recreation or education careers – they leave Leaders School with new insight, support networks and tools that helped them succeed in advancing their quality sport projects. A comment from one of our “alumni” says it well: "The Sport for Life Leaders School was a fantastic opportunity to focus in on an under-served population in our programming. Learning from others across the country about their successes and challenges helped to target my programming ideas and avoid making the same mistakes that others had already learned from. I'd recommend the program to anyone working in amateur sport in Canada."

Applications for 2018 Sport for Life Leaders School must be received by November 30, 2017. This year, BC applicants may qualify for one of two Bob Bearpark Foundation Scholarships for Leaders School. See http://sportforlife.ca/leaders-school/ for more information.

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