By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
What Does Sport Mean to You?
This is a question that, if explored, gets down to the root of how and why it provides value in your life.
Is sport the adventure of striving to reach the podium, the rush of coaching your team to the playoffs, or is it the sense of camaraderie you feel with your teammates?
Maybe it’s the joy you feel when you watch your child play, or the sense of reward when you give back as an official or volunteer.
Sport might be how you connect to the people and places around you, and is a way to stay active and have fun with friends and family.
Whatever sport is to you, it has the power to have a profound impact on your life in all kinds of ways, including mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically – and that is valuable now more than ever.
The Way You Play
The physical benefits that sport can provide are perhaps the most obvious. Playing sports and getting active as a child can help set the foundation for a positive, healthy relationship with physical activity that can last a lifetime.
“Health, fitness and sport performance are all tied together closely,” said Sport Performance Specialist Neal Prokop, who has worked with many Team Manitoba athletes over the years at Sport Manitoba Performance.
“Different sports utilize different athletic abilities and components of fitness, such as strength and endurance. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines encourage a minimum 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity exercise each week to begin accumulating the benefits associated with exercise. With so many individuals spending more time sitting and living a sedentary lifestyle, sport and competition can be a fun way to meet these physical activity guidelines,” said Prokop.
No matter what level you play, Dr. Adrienne Leslie-Toogood, owner of Toogood Consulting and Director of Sport Psychology at Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba, believes sport can bring a lot to everyone’s life, whether you are in it for competition or leisure.
“It’s an opportunity to get out and have fun and stay healthy and fit. Some people like to work out on their own and do their own thing. And a lot of people do their workout through sport, which is really fun,” said Dr. Leslie-Toogood.
The Way You Think
There are so many other intangible benefits you can experience outside of physically gaining strength or feeling fit.
“When an athlete achieves their goals in sport, or even the weight room alongside our performance staff, it’s a result of persistence, commitment, and accountability. The athletes have trusted the process, they were patient, put in the work, and maintained a good attitude and work ethic. You certainly feel their sense of accomplishment… and then they are back to work on the next goal,” said Prokop.
For example, think back on a time where you overcame a challenge you thought you couldn’t get through. It probably felt very fulfilling when you made it to the finish line.
The opportunity to overcome obstacles just like that are everywhere in sport, like pushing yourself to run just one more mile or learning how to hit a tough pitch.
“When you think of sport, it’s very much an opportunity to challenge yourself,” said Dr. Leslie-Toogood. “To try and get better at something, you learn a lot of life lessons out of it in terms of, you know, there might be an area you struggle in, you might not be successful at something, and you learn how to do it.”
The Way You Feel
At the very core, the athletes, coaches, and officials are the ones who are out there competing or working during the game or activity.
But, in reality, the impact of sport goes well beyond this – there are positive emotional and social benefits experienced by parents, volunteers, spectators, and sport staff, too.
“I think people get a ton of emotional benefit from their sport, whatever they choose to do. Each sport has unique challenges, but again, the sense of community and connection [and] camaraderie is so powerful in a sport setting,” said Dr. Leslie-Toogood.
She remembers when her children were young and just learning how to play soccer. The kids would run around in a cluster on the field with their teammates, and she loved going to watch them and being outdoors.
“It’s also great for the parents to get out and get away from their job and their stresses and just go on a soccer pitch, or a tennis court, or a track, and just watch their child strive and try. They always say that phrase ‘I love to watch you play, it’s so much fun to watch you play’ and it is. As a parent, it’s so much fun to watch your child do what they love.”
Sport After COVID-19
Since March 2020, the world of sport has changed. The pandemic has affected participants around the globe of all ages and levels, from professional, to amateur, to recreational.
But what happens when we get out of this pandemic in the future? In what ways can we nurture our mental, emotional, social, and physical wellbeing as we adjust?
Sport might just be one of the best ways to bounce back, feel good from the inside out, and be a welcomed source of joy and connection.
“It’s been really hard for people. There’s maybe more stress, more anxiety, and as a society, we’re going to maybe have more of that. And I think it’s important for us to recognize the role that sport can play in that. Sport can help us all as we recover. It can be part of the recovery process and part of that sense of normalcy, part of that structure and that routine and getting out,” said Dr. Leslie-Toogood.
Finding Safe Programs Near You
Are you interested in finding safe, inclusive, and quality sport programming for you and your family? Visit our website and explore over 70 local Provincial Sport Organizations (PSOs)/Partners and their programs.
General Social Survey (Canadians at Work and Home). (2016). Sports for fun and fitness. Retrieved from Statistics Canada: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2019039-eng.htm
Government of Canada. (2016, 01 22). Children and physical activity. Retrieved from Government of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/being-active/children-physical-activity.html
IMI International & Canada Games Council. (2021). Return to Play: Impact of the Pandemic on Youth’s Activity in Sport. IMI International.
Mulholland, E. (2008). What Sport Can Do. Ottawa: True Sport. Retrieved from https://truesportpur.ca/sites/default/files/content/docs/pdf/tsreportenwebdownload1.pdf