Championing francophone physical literacy, safe sport

When it comes to the rapidly evolving physical literacy landscape in Canada, Quebec is quickly becoming a hotbed of innovation. Not only have francophones embraced the movement, they’ve already taken the lead on key initiatives. During the Sport for Life Canadian Summit this year, francophone delegates came together for a day-long exploration of their successes so far and the challenges to come.

Hosted by Sport for Life’s Kim Samson, the day featured two of the leading voices of the francophone movement: Steeve Ager of Réseau Accès Participation and Sylvain Croteau of Sport’Aide. Together they addressed two topics, the evolving definition of physical literacy and how to ensure athletes and participants in physical activity can be safeguarded from bullying and violence.

“This year it was just as important as ever to host our own Francophone Day during Summit, since there’s so much momentum currently building around the movement right now. Having Sylvain and Steeve host really hammered home not only how far we’ve come, but also how far we have to go,” said Samson.

"Overall it was a day of stimulating dialogue as we began to build the roadmap to our future successes."

What is Physical Literacy 2.0?

Steeve Ager’s primary objective going into Summit 2020 was very simple: boost the delegates’ comprehension of the true meaning of physical literacy. While he’s satisfied that most people have a superficial understanding of the concept, he believes they don’t truly understand the social scope. Once people grasp that, he calls the Sport for Life creation Physical Literacy 2.0.

“When we first started out physical literacy was always very closely related to motor skills, but as the concept evolves and I feel it gains more traction in our culture, we’ll see a more global approach, a more developmental approach to grow physical activity into a lifestyle,” said Ager.

Right now he said the recreation field is interested, cities and municipalities are well-aligned, and the sport sector has been engaged. But there’s still further to go, and more radical actions to be taken. True physical literacy will be about developing a healthy population as a whole, rather than focusing on a small subset of athletes.

“What I feel confident about is the growth of the concept. The broader the approach, the better, and that fits well with what people are talking about these days. It’s a good evolution where we’re becoming more and more aligned with health promotion. We’re now looking at a more holistic approach, and we’re creating proper environments,” he said.

“It’s not just a sport thing anymore.”

Ultimately the day meant professionals all came together to share best practices and to discuss how to move forward, successfully taking the dialogue beyond definition and towards action.

“I thought we made a clear step forward, away from working in silos. We had a transparent conversation about what we can do to solve the political issues of physical literacy, and how we can make it easier for organizations and federations to get involved. I was very glad we were able to accomplish all of that during the Summit.”

 Working together to keep people safe

Momentum around the concept of safe sport has been building, and it’s leading minds in Quebec that have been making progress on this front. The first ever North American Safe Sport International Conference, which was recently rescheduled to 2021 due to COVID-19, will bring together experts from all over the world to discuss how collaboration can lead to violence-free environments.

“The most important thing to show is that in order to provide safe sport environments, the best way to get there is to work together. We come with a lot of different partners to show that this isn’t only a Sport’Aide affair,” said Croteau.

Really, he feels as many organizations and people should be involved as possible -- whether that means helping support the creation of a coach and volunteer database or introducing safeguards and policies that will protect the vulnerable.

“We may all have different goals and missions, and we all have different approaches to mobilize people around one goal: creating safe sport environments.”

Croteau was thrilled with how engaged the delegates were during the Summit, and said there was an enthusiastic energy in the room. That’s the energy he was hoping to ride into the Safe Sport International Conference, which had over 300 people registered six weeks prior to launch. He estimates they ultimately would’ve attracted 400 participants from 38 countries.

“We may be sad, but the only thing I can say is we now have 13 months to make it perfect.”

Meanwhile, they won’t be sitting on their hands. Next up they plan two launch two tools, a book for kids and a tool for coaches. Both will debut later in 2020. They also have a collaboration in the Netherlands that is still a “surprise”.

“Things are changing rapidly, because people and organizations are all mobilizing around this subject, and when we compare Canada and Quebec to other places we must be seen as a leader. That is why we’re always looking to develop and implement new tools and approaches, making sure we’re always moving forward.”

That’s why working with Sport for Life and being part of the Summit is so important. Sport’Aide believes these are the partnerships necessary to give participants the experience they deserve.

“The best way to figure out young athletes being active for life is to provide them a positive sport experience, and that’s what safe sport is all about.”

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