PLAYShuswap enhances community connections through physical literacy

When it comes to developing physical literacy in a community, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel. Instead, you can focus on enhancing existing initiatives and infrastructure with a physical literacy focus. That’s one of the lessons that comes to mind when community mentor Nicole Beauregard reflects on her time with the newly created PLAYShuswap working group, which was created as part of Sport for Life’s Physical Literacy for Communities (PL4C) initiative.

“It is the right approach for the communities of Shuswap because it’s more efficient. We already had enthusiastic investment around the table and strong players engaged, so it was about inviting people to become a part of it and focusing on partnership and relationship-building,” she said.

“We can do what we’re already doing, but put a physical literacy lens on it.”

One fun example came up this past Halloween. The community had already established an event called the Treat Trail, in which youngsters trick or treat from business to business. PLAYShuswap decided to design pathways with sidewalk chalk and spray paint that encouraged the kids to complete fundamental movements skills to receive treats, with design contributions coming from the PL4C team in Sooke-Westshore. The kids loved it, and so did the parents. As the kids continued to see more and move along the sidewalks, their motivation and confidence to participate increased.

PLAYShuswap is only a year old but in that time they’ve already reached a number of their milestones. They cover the communities of Salmon Arm, Enderby and Sicamous. So far Interior Health, School District 83, Salmon Arm Recreation, Enderby & District Recreation Services, and District of Sicamous Recreation have engaged, and they continue to expand further into the sport sector. Mike Fox, the operations manager of the local soccer club, comes from the Lower Mainland, where he’d encountered physical literacy tables previously, and he’s quickly become one of the working group’s most enthusiastic champions. Their vision statement: “Move Together, Live Better -- For Life!”

“In terms of bridging the gaps between siloes, this group is really good at pausing, listening, and then saying ‘okay, who do we contact?’, said Fox. “Then someone picks up the phone and gets on it, which is really cool to see. They’ve been very good at moving ideas to action. I am very excited to see where our associate mentor Jennifer Gibson takes this group to the next level as we move into phase two.”

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic began just when they were just gearing up for some major developments. Plans were in place to host a sport summit, which is now on hold, while School District 83 is still determined to participate in the School Physical Activity and Physical Literacy project that is scheduled to begin in September 2020. The School Board has made it clear that they’ve identified physical literacy as a priority in their planning by covering two teachers’ classrooms while they attend the PL4C meetings, and have set a goal of having a mentor in every school.

Salmon Arm Recreation has been key in providing training and promoting the project, but they want to continue to broaden their scope and reach more people. As the PLAYShuswap working group begins to move into phase two of the project, one of their top priorities is to engage with the local Indigenous communities, who have a wealth of expertise and knowledge about physical activity and health to share. Relationship-building has begun, and the hope is to engage as much of the population as possible.

“The whole point of the Physical Literacy for Communities project is long-term sustainability and creating opportunities to participate. If you think on the flip side about the public health crisis of smoking, and how long it took to remove smoking from restaurants and parks, this is a similar thing but has a positive impact on health. It’s going to take time to shift culture toward understanding how important physical literacy is as a part of our activities and daily living.  If we want healthier citizens moving together for life, it’s important to embed physical literacy into everything we do,” Beauregard said.

She thinks they’re off to an awesome start.

“They really dove right in. This is one of the best communities I’ve worked with, because there’s such strong leadership and passion that they put into their projects. The expertise around the table is vast and very collaborative. I couldn’t be happier with their progress and commitment to the project.”

To learn more about PLAY Shuswap, please contact community mentor Nicole Beauregard  (nicole@physicalliteracy.ca) or associate mentor Jennifer Gibson at playshuswap@gmail.com.

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