Just Go Outside and Play

By Emma S.

We live in a busy, fast paced society where unstructured play sometimes gets overlooked. As a kid, I was encouraged to go outside to play and explore as well as go to the local park as long as I told my parents where I was going. My favorite thing to do was play grounders on the play structures with a group of people. I would also meet my friend who lived down the street to go for walks around the subdivision. But over time I have noticed a decrease in children playing outdoors in my neighborhood. Whether this is due to a lack of time for parents to play with their kid, an unsafe environment or distractions by other things such as technology, kids seem to be playing outdoors less. It is quite common to drive past a playground and see no kids playing. It was reported that only 37% of 11-15 year olds in Canada report playing outdoors for several hours a day outside school hours (ParticipACTION, 2016, p. 21). This is something to note because unstructured play contributes to youth development by improving physical, emotional, social and cognitive development and it should be promoted as much as possible (ParticipACTION, 2016, p. 22). It also gives youth the opportunity to explore and be curious (Brown, 2009) and to use their creativity to come up with solutions.

Although parents may have many positive memories from their childhood with regards to playing outdoors, the concern over the safety of their child will likely overpower these positive memories. 51% of parents with 0-18 year old children say that they would like their child to play outdoors more but are too worried about their safety (ParticipACTION, 2016, p. 22). By worrying about things that may or may not happen, we are taking away from the positive benefits youth can acquire by unstructured play. Key things adults will do regarding this is removing all the “fun” play structures at schools because a kid broke their arm or was hurt in another way (Levesque, 2017). Instead of teaching kids the fundamental skills to not hurt themselves or how to fall properly, we take the equipment away or try and limit the games they play to ones we consider safe (ParticiPACTION, 2016). Unstructured play will provide kids with the opportunities to develop fundamental skills crucial for everyday life. It will also allow kids the creativity to make decisions about how they are going to tackle a task while playing. However, it is important to have a balance between structured and unstructured play.

Participating in unstructured play is also beneficial when playing on a specific sport team. A quote by Bowers & Green (2013) stated “informal sports lets them be creative and lets them take risks so that they learn what they do and do not feel comfortable doing in an organized, evaluated setting” (p. 429). This is really important. If youth are not given the opportunity to play for themselves, they may never push themselves out of fear of failure in the organized setting. This could potentially lead to higher drop out rates if youth feel like they are not performing to their capacity. Youth participating in unstructured play with their friends will allow new skill development and different ways of doing things without the pressure that can get placed on them when in a structured setting by coaches, leaders, parents, and teammates.

Youth may gain the sense of importance when adults support their developmental process by encouraging their participation in unstructured play. It will show youth that adults care about their development and that they are valued in their community as assets in the making. It may also provide youth with the determination to become contributors in their community because they want to be apart of something greater from their time participating in an unstructured setting (Bowers & Green, 2013).



Bowers, M.T., Green, B.C. (2013). Reconstructing the community-based youth sport experience: how children derive meaning from unstructured and organized settings. Journal of sport management. 26(6), 422-438

Brown, S. (2009). Play is more than just fun. TEDtalks.com. https://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital Retrieved October 6, 2017

Levesque, C. (2017). Educating Physical Literacy. RSS 3042.

ParticipACTION. (2016). Are Canadian kids too tired to move? The 2016 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Toronto: ParticipACTION

Posted in Outdoors/Nature, Positive Youth Development | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Impact of Stretching on Youth Development

By Alex C.

Stretching is often looked at by youth as something only runners or gymnasts really do, or as a burden and something that none of them really want to do. However, it is an extremely important exercise for the development of youth in sport, recreation, and leisure for a couple of reasons; but the main one being that it helps prevent them from injuring themselves while participating in their recreation, sport and/or leisurely activity. As we know, youth just want to go out and play and have no real regard for prevention of injuries in that manner, so a lot of the onus for making sure they stretch properly is on the parents and coaches.

According to the Harvard Health Letter, there are three main points that a parent/ coach should go over:

  1. “Why it’s important”; if this is explained to the children, they are more likely to understand why they should be stretching, and how it can help them down the road.
  2. “Where to start”; nobody wants to waste 20 minutes stretching every day, so this explains that depending on the exercise/activity you are doing, you don’t need to stretch every muscle in your body. You should just be stretching the muscles that you are putting emphasis on (i.e., going for a run, you should stretch your legs, and your arms beforehand).
  3. “Proper execution”; teaches you to do the stretches correctly, to hold them for the right amount of time, and to do stretches after your activity as well. This is extremely important, because if you’re not stretching properly, you might as well not be stretching at all.

Stretching is extremely important for people of all ages when participating in sport, leisure and recreation. It decreases your chances of pulling a muscle, promotes blood flow throughout the body, and increases flexibility and range of motion. Promoting blood flow in the body is definitely a positive reinforcement to stretching, but we should be more focused on youth stretching to decrease risk of injury and increase flexibility and range of motion for their development. Adolescence is a time that is spent largely on developing life skills that will help later on down the road; whether it be self-efficacy, confidence, motor skills and so on. And a major way that they learn these life skills can be through sport, leisure and recreation. However, if children get injured while playing in a game of hockey, for example, then it may impact their development.

For example, I remember playing football back in grade 11; playing on this team gave me self-confidence and a sense of purpose, but just into the start of the season I pulled my groin (I didn’t stretch properly, if at all) and had to miss the last three weeks of the season. I was devastated. I no longer felt like I was part of the team and it really effected my self-confidence and made going to school a lot less enjoyable because I didn’t have something to look forward to after school (practice).

Now, this example is only of a short-term injury and I was able to move on once I healed up. But injuries such as pulled muscles don’t always go away so easily and they can stick around for quite some time, and if they do they can make it more challenging for youth to develop these kinds of life skills. And although stretching is not going to completely eliminate the possibility of a child pulling a muscle, but it will greatly decrease the chances of it happening along with increasing their flexibility and range of motion.


Harvard Health letter. (2013). Importance of stretching. (38) no. 11. Harvard Medical School Health Publicaions Group. P. 4.

Hebert, R. D., & Gabriel, M. (2002). Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury. BMJ, 325(7362), 468.

Personal experiences.

Posted in Coaching, Positive Youth Development, Sport | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

It’s Time for a Wake-Up Call for Youth to Catch Some Z’s

by Tara G.

I bet you won’t believe me when I say that 31% of school-aged children and 26% of adolescents in Canada are sleep deprived (ParticipACTION, 2016). Another astonishing fact is that in recent decades, children’s nightly sleep duration has decreased by about 30 to 60 minutes- but how can this be?

The most important question is: why?

My first thought, as most of you may have considered was technology. It makes perfect sense. In today’s modern society we, including myself, have all fallen victim of losing track of the time prior to going to sleep. Whether it is from checking our phones, watching TV, playing video games, on the computer, etc.- all of us, including youth, are culprit of losing some Z’s at night for these very reasons. Although this does factor in as to why youth are losing sleep at night, there is another more imposing factor that we must consider: youth are not getting enough physical activity.

According to ParticipACTION, “Many kids are too tired to get enough physical activity during the day, and are not active enough to be tired at night- it’s a vicious cycle” (2016). In other words, our youth are not tired enough to even go to bed at night due to a lack of exercise. Yes, technology and being inside all day can cause youth to not be physically active. However, for that very reason is the answer as to why our youth actually don’t want to be physically active- they are sleep deprived. It is a chain reaction of factors at hand, and that is what is causing such a “wicked problem”.

In terms of the development of youth, why is sleep important? If we think about youth or anyone for that matter, we need sleep. Sleep is food for our brains. According to Dr. Martiquet from the Adolescent Health Surveys (AHS), “the National Sleep Foundation recommends that youth and adolescents have at least 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep each night” (2016). Sleep provides time for many body functions and brain activity to occur. This means that skipping sleep can be very harmful and detrimental to youth’s development. A lack of sleep can affect youth’s mental health leading to a variety of concerns such as substance abuse, sedentary lifestyle, injuries, depression, social exclusion, inactivity, etc. (Martiquet, 2016). In other words, the development of youth’s cognitive, emotional, social, and physical functioning is entirely dependant on adequate sleep at night.

When I think back to my own personal experience growing up as a young athlete, it was engrained in my mind by my coaches and parents that sleep is the upmost importance. If you don’t sleep, you can’t perform. Luckily, I never really had to worry about that, as I would come home from a long day of school and whichever activity was scheduled for that day- I would be absolutely exhausted. I had that advantage over other youth. I also knew that if I didn’t sleep enough, my performance would hinder which is the worst possible outcome for a young athlete who constantly strives to please. However, not all youth are high performance athletes so we need to find other means in getting youth out of this vicious cycle of living a sedentary lifestyle.

What we need to do as specialists within the field of Sports and Recreation is educate our youth the importance of physical activity. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that children and youth need to accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity every day (Tremblay, Warburton, Janssen, & et al., 2011). Specifically, our educators need to ensure that youth is getting the allotted amount of physical activity that they need in order to actually be tired at night. If our youth in Canada can sit less and be more active, we will all sleep better at night.

It’s time for a wake up call.

For your convenience, if you want to learn more about the importance of sleep, above is an interesting video spoken by Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist specialist. An interesting statement he makes is that the average person sleeps roughly one-third of their entire life. This in itself tells us that sleep must be important (TEDtalk, 2013).


Foster, R. (2013). Why do we sleep? TEDtalk.com. URL: https://www.ted.com/talks/russell_foster_why_do_we_sleep#t-50018.

Martiquet, P. (2016). Youth likely not getting enough sleep. Vancouver Coastal Health. URL: http://www.vch.ca/about-us/news/youth-likely-not-getting-enough-sleep.

ParticipACTION. Archived Report Cards. Toronto: ParticipACTION; 2016. URL: http://www.participACTION.com/reportcard.

Tremblay, M. S., Warburton, D. E., Janssen, I., Paterson, D. H., Latimer, A. E., Rhodes, R. E., … & Murumets, K. (2011). New Canadian physical activity guidelines. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism36(1), 36-46.

Posted in 5Cs of Youth Development, Adolescence, facebook, Media, physical education, Positive Youth Development, Recreation, Sport, Technology | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Underestimated Importance of Mental Toughness

By Maggie M.

When thinking about sports such as hockey, football or rugby, your brain automatically is directed to physical toughness, as these athletes are being tackled, and taking hits against the boards, all in the name of the game. These are the “grinders” the sports that are often used to define a “jock”, and the sports that are assumed to inflict sport injuries. Although many sports require physical toughness, an aspect that a successful athlete and team require in order to be victorious is mental toughness.

Mental toughness cannot exclusively be strengthened in the gym like physical toughness. Mental toughness is derived from getting kicked while you’re down however rising and overcoming any obstacle that once put you down. Mental toughness is what separates a mediocre “weekend warrior” athlete from an athlete who cannot be beat, because if you have mental toughness, no tackle, or hit into the boards, or loss or even being cut from a team can break you. Mental toughness is a measure of individual resilience and confidence that may predict success in not only sport but in life. It’s importance is not expressed enough, as mental toughness is the difference between a young athlete giving up sports all together upon their first experience of getting cut from a team, and the kid who gets cut and uses that as a lesson on how to get better, faster and stronger at those weaknesses that once caused them to be cut. Mental toughness is where winners are made and where giving up simply isn’t an option.

Where mental toughness is tested alongside physical toughness in tryouts. Tryouts- the often dreaded, nerve wracking time where athletes showcase their talents and hard work while all having the same goal in mind- to make the team. At the end of tryouts a team is made, however during tryouts, it can be explained as Darwin’s theory of evolution with the survival of the fittest. Only athletes who stand out to the coaching staff as mentally and physically tough will survive the rounds of tryouts resulting in making the team. Although being “cut” from the team is often viewed as “not worthy” or even as failure, it is those athletes who are resilient who will make the changes needed, turn weaknesses into strengths and who never give up who can be deemed as mentally tough.

Getting cut from a team can be a major emotional setback for most athletes, however knowing how to cope with getting cut is how athletes can go from not making the team one year to being a starting player the following year. The reason many young athletes today quit after being cut is because of their coping strategies or their lack of. Getting cut from a team can be frustrating and depressing however a mentally tough athlete can turn that negative emotion into motivation by taking the coach’s criticism as constructive rather than negative and to improve for their next opportunity. Making the team you’re trying out for is an “on top of the world feeling”, however working hard, pushing your limits and never giving up resulting in making a team you were previously cut from is a feeling that cannot be beat, and it is a feeling only an athlete who is resilient and mentally tough will experience.


Goldberg. Allan (2017). Cutting in Sport, Retrieved from https://www.competitivedge.com


Posted in Positive Youth Development, Sport | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

“But my sport is important too”: The Importance Of Non-Traditional Sport Exposure In Gym Class

by Leanne W.

Growing up, I remember when meeting new people, one of the most common questions they would ask was if I played any sports. As a young child, I never understood the funny looks others would give me when I replied “I’m a dancer” or “ I cheerlead.” I felt the need to constantly defend my sport and still do even at times to a Kinesiology class when I still get the same looks I did when I was 8 years old. Do not try to tell me these aren’t sports because you will lose. I’ve had this argument more than any child should have to.

As we have previously discussed in class When placing a child in sport and recreation opportunities, a parent will generally place their child in the activities they participated as a child or the more commonly televised sports. This is due to the lack of education of other opportunities. The most common activities for child participation are soccer, hockey, basketball and baseball. Does this surprise anyone? Probably not, but what about the other kids? The children who aren’t necessarily talented in typical sports? Are they left out of participating? Children who participate in more unknown sports such as speed skating, parkour, curling, rowing, and many others are often not recognized and do not develop as much of an athlete identity which is a harm to their self confidence and will lead to higher drop out rates. An athlete will not continue in a sport if they do not feel valued by their peers. A common reason children do not value these sports is because they have never been exposed to them.

Children will not place any value on these without exposure and the best place for youth exposure to new activities is through school. Gym class is the best way to expose children to new sport and recreation opportunities that their parents may not be aware of. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I found out dance units were being introduced in middle school gym classes as dance provides an opportunity to develop many fundamental movement skills such as balance, coordination and spatial awareness, which are very important skills for proper youth development. Non-traditional sports in gym classes provide opportunities for children to practice learning fundamental movement skills as well as the opportunity to find new activities they many want to try participating in in the future that their parents not be aware of. New opportunities outside of what children are used to participating in gym class can be a fun and exciting challenge and an opportunity for these other children to showcase their talent to there peers that they would not get to do in a typical four or five unit structured class they way gym worked when I went to school.

So let’s push to be inclusive. Let’s push to change curriculum for youth in order for exposure to more activities. Let’s stop shaming the little girl in the corner who would rather twirl than shoot a basketball. She’s an athlete too.


Daniels, E., & Leaper, C. (2006). A longitudinal investigation of sport participation, peer acceptance, and self-esteem among adolescent girls and boys. Sex roles, 55(11-12), 875-880.

personal experience and class discussions

Posted in Positive Youth Development, Sport | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

I know I run like a girl, should I not be proud of it? Girls’ Participation and Dropout rates in Sport

By Cailie M.

Throughout my entire childhood, period of adolescence and now as I enter my fourth year of university, I have always been an avid participant in sport and recreation. As I ran, jumped and played my way through school one thing was consistent, as we got older, the numbers of female participants in gym class dwindled. Why is it that at the age of nine, girls have already decided sports are not for them?

Childhood and early adolescence is a period of growth, a time to develop self-efficacy, personal empowerment, self-esteem and respect for ourselves as well as others. Yet in gym class when we are told we can do “girl push ups” or walk instead of run (because we are obviously too delicate for physical exertion), the bar for females is lowered and in turn, decreases our value and sense of worth. A study completed by Allender, Cowburn and Foster (2006) explain that the top reasons for drop out in sport among females are previous negative experiences, identity conflict and boys’ dominance in class. A study done by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, CAAWS (2016) stated, “Girls are often discouraged from participating when they feel they lack competence or fundamental skills in sport, or when they do not find value in the sport” (p.10). Without the opportunity to try, how will girls succeed? By the age of ten, a girl should not feel out of place in gym class. While it is equally important and beneficial for males and females to continue to participate in recreation, we need to understand why the female participation rates drop so quickly in comparison to males.

I found it interesting that on the covers of Sports Illustrated, one thing seemed to be missing, female athletes. Out of 716 issues, only 35 featured a female athlete, the rest being models (Gray, 2013). Furthermore, when female athletes were pictured on the cover, they were participating in traditionally “feminine” sports or the poses were sexually objectified (Gray, 2013). This sends conflicting messages surrounding the issue of body image to girls as a model will not have the same physique as an athlete creating unrealistic standards. Girls wanting to appear more feminine and attractive is another main reason for female drop out in sports (Allender, Cowburn & Foster, 2006). Neither the model or athlete are in the wrong, we just need to realize the ideal female body does not exist. When a girl is no longer pleased with her appearance, the chance of her dropping out of sport increases significantly, especially when she is comparing herself to models on the covers of sport magazines (CAAWS, 2016). When girls hit early adolescence, the drop out rate in sport participation at school increases by 26% (CAAWS, 2016). It is important that society welcomes and praises a diverse range of body types as the goal should be to improve participation and build self-esteem. Therefore, initiatives such as the Dove Self-Esteem project and Play Like a Girl campaign are crucial in the quest to prevent girls from becoming too self-conscious to play.

There are many benefits of sport participation ranging from improved bone mass density, increased feelings of empowerment and the provision of opportunities to develop leadership skills (CAAWS, 2016). It is detrimental to the health of society that we empower girls at a young age to participate in sport through the development of confidence, competence and character to succeed, whether that be on the track, in the pool, on the field or in the classroom.


Allender, S., Cowburn, G., & Foster, C. (2006). Understanding participation in sport and physical activity among children and adults: a review of qualitative studies. Health Education Research, 21(6), 826-835. doi:10.1093/her/cyl063

CAAWS. (2016). Women in Sport: Fuelling a Lifetime of Participation. Canada’s Dairy Farmers.

Gray, E. (2013, May 13). Does Sports Illustrated Have A Woman Problem? Retrieved September 25, 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/sports-illustrated-models-female-athletes-study_n_3266999

Posted in Gender, Positive Youth Development | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Youth Obesity Versus Active Leisure, Recreation, and Sport Participation

By John H.

A major challenge towards youth participation in active leisure, recreation and sport is obesity. Being overweight or obese can lead to a variety of health problems, partially because it effects active leisure and physical activity levels among youth. Those who are overweight or obese report not feeling confident in their abilities, are embarrassed while doing physical activity and playing sports, and do not enjoy participating. On top of that, verbal teasing, physical bullying, and other forms of victimization by peers are more prevalent among children who are overweight or obese; thus leading to negative leisure, recreation, and sport experiences. These negative experiences result in decreased participation in sport and recreation activities for overweight and obese youth. As a result, obese or overweight youth can oftentimes have little to no influence from sport and recreation professionals and the programs designed to engage youth with active and healthy lifestyle education.

Potential social psychological consequences of childhood obesity that influence well-being include stigmatization, social rejection, low self-esteem, negative body image, and victimization by peers through verbal and physical bullying and social exclusion (Shannon, 2014). Children who are classified as overweight tend to watch more television, spend more time playing video games, and other forms of inactive leisure because they often feel incapable in their physical abilities, or feel like they don’t belong in the sport or recreation setting. Obesity in youth occurs as a result of an imbalance between energy intake and energy outflow, therefore it is critical for overweight or obese individuals to implement physical activity into their leisure time. But this is easier said than done, as personal experiences of successes and failures in leisure activities are among the factors that have an impact on youths’ generalized leisure experiences.

During lecture five of Youth Development through Recreation and Sport, the class discussed the importance of support networks with recreation and sport professionals who play significant roles in empowering youth. Youth highly benefit from: being involved in decisions regarding their active leisure, recreation, and sport activities, developing necessary social skills through allowing them to be involved in the community, and creating opportunities for youth engage in meaningful service for a good cause (Shannon-McCallum, 2017). So, how can we help ensure overweight and obese youth are met with all the resources necessary to meet their full potential for an active and healthy lifestyle? Increasing youth’s confidence levels as sport and recreation professionals is key towards their development of athletic abilities is a key component to ensuring participation for life in active leisure, recreation, and sport. It is important that we make sure every young person can participate in physical activities without being victimized and feeling like they don’t belong. Youth workers of all sorts including coaches, instructors, teachers, and program/event leaders must ensure positive youth development to ensure positive recreation and sport experiences to encourage an active lifestyle, thus combatting youth obesity and ensuring positive experiences and life-long healthy decision making.

Shannon, C. S. (2014). Exploring the leisure experiences of children who are overweight and obese: Parent and child perspectives. Leisure/Loisir, 38(2), 139-163.

Posted in Positive Youth Development | Tagged , , | 2 Comments