Ridley College pursues multisport mission

Physical literacy and scholastic achievement are more interconnected than you think.

At Ridley College in St. Catharines, students are taught about the three-fold nature of development — mind, body and spirit —  and that exercise is a key component in wellness. As part of their studies, they have the choice to participate in 19 competitive sports or in a cross-section of life sports. It’s this insistence on multisport engagement and active culture that drives much of the school’s success. Now administrators are making sure their efforts align with Long-Term Development in Sport and Physical Activity ideals.

“This all goes back to 2010, when we started using the language of physical literacy and long-term athlete development to describe and deepen what was already at the heart of the Ridley student experience. The language, and backed by science, really resonated with us. Physical literacy and long-term development have a multisport focus – it’s a big part of that connection,” said Jay Tredway, Ridley’s Assistant Head of School.

“Having this language helped us articulate and refine our mission. We believe that multisport experiences are crucial for building confidence and developing a wide range of physical, social and emotional skills. This language has allowed us to shine a new light on what has always been core to our educational philosophy.”

Ridley’s Director of Athletics Courtney Smith knows firsthand the importance of a multisport approach to education, as she was formerly a Ridley student.

“Having this language helped us articulate and refine our mission. We believe that multisport experiences are crucial for building confidence and developing a wide range of physical, social and emotional skills. This language has allowed us to shine a new light on what has always been core to our educational philosophy,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s recreational, competitive, or if they’re shooting for post-secondary, all students can flourish in sport at Ridley. What we want to do is establish habits and teach them to bring those habits into their post-secondary lives, to create a lifestyle with sport as they grow into adults. We have former students in their 30s who will say to us, ‘I have to exercise multiple times a week, I don’t know why’. That’s the Ridley way.” 

Kristy Onclin, Head of Physical Education, believes being able to play a wide variety of sports will give students a better chance of overcoming barriers in the future.

“A big part of our curricular program is focused on those basic fundamental movement skills, like throwing and catching and maintaining balance. These are all tactics and skills from one game that apply in another. Students then take that learning and blend it into their competitive and recreational passions. That’s what multisport is all about,” she said.

Tredway feels the best evidence of the efficacy of their program is the hundreds of graduates doing exciting things all over the globe. 

“We annually collect stories about our alumni doing amazing things using the power of sport, like building new ski infrastructure, expanding not-for-profit sports programming, or creating a sailing fleet for their community.  We love to tell these stories to show our current or prospective students that you don’t need to be an elite athlete to change the world in a powerful way when sport is your ally,” he said.

He feels the experience of participating in multiple sports is the most important thing.

“There are sport experiences you hang on to forever, and they don’t always come from your favourite one. When these students think about their Ridley sport experience, it is not just about the things they won. It is about the bus trips and the meals and all the other shared experiences. That is why multisport is so powerful — it creates a myriad of shared experience where students build relationships, confidence. And ultimately it encourages taking a risk to go out and try something new. If we’ve instilled that in them, then we’ve done our job.”