The health of recreational sports in Canada is declining. According to a report prepared by the Canadian Heritage Sport Canada branch, Statistics Canada points to a troubling trend in both youth and adult involvement in sport.
In the report, Sport Participation Strategy 2008 to 2012, teenagers between 15 to 18 years old, have seen their numbers drop to just 59 per cent, from 77 per cent in 1992. The 18-per-cent decline is similar to the trend in adults, where participation rates are at 28 per cent, down from 45 per cent in 1992.
In Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, the second annual Interactive Sports Expo hopes to stem the declining tide.
Scheduled for Aug. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Pitt Meadows Arena and Athletic Park, the free event is an opportunity to discover the wide range of sporting opportunities in the two communities, said Perry Bateson, owner of Yuen’s Family Martial Arts and one of the lead organizers.
He said the eventual goal is to increase participation in the two communities by 10 to 15 per cent.
“Our primary goal is to get new people off the couch,” says Bateson. “It’s a great chance to learn something new.”
Canada’s Physical Activity Guides for Children and Youth reported that more than half of Canadian children and youth aged five to 17 are not active enough.
The report recommends kids get at least 60 minutes of daily activity for at least three days a week.
However, from 1978 to 2004, rates of obesity among Canadians aged 18 and over increased to 23 per cent, from 14 per cent. In youth, it jumped to eight per cent from three per cent.
The martial arts teacher admits it’s not always easy to attract new participants to a sport, but feels this year’s focus on youth and the ability to get hands-on experience will help.
Bateson said there will be as many as 30 organizations taking part, from popular sports like lacrosse and soccer, to more unique activities like archery and speed skating.
With the help of the Ridge Meadows Sports and Leisure Services, the Interactive Sports Expo have also brought in keynote speaker Drew Mitchell, who oversees sport performance and technical services for the B.C. Sport Agency.
Mitchell will speak at 9 a.m. on the second floor of the Pitt Meadows Arena.
A graduate of Simon Fraser University with a bachelor of science in kinesiology. Mitchell has worked extensively in sports as an educator and developer of programs for the past 17 years.
He has also been the manager of science and medicine programs for SportMedBC and a member of the Canadian National Canoeing team.
Mitchell is currently overseeing the implementation of the Canadian Sport for Life program into B.C. Sport, as well as in education, recreation and health sectors in B.C.
In addition, Nustadia Recreation will be opening the Pitt Meadows Arena for a free public skate starting at 2:30 p.m.
Bateson said they hope by showcasing the wide range of sports in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, local organizations can better connect with families who may not even know they exist.
“A lot of people may want to play a sport, but they don’t know who to get a hold of. That’s why we emphasized the interactive aspect of this year’s event.
“We want families to be able to actually give something a try, like ringette or rhythmic gymnastics,” says Bateson.
With so many organizations set to take part, Bateson said it’s up to the public to do its part.
He said the benefits of playing team or individual sports go beyond the immediate health benefits. From building greater social connections within the community to increasing volunteers, participation strengthens the community as a whole.
“We want families to come out and participate. Be there Aug. 19 and come out and play. It’s that old adage of touch it, feel it, do it.”