New awareness campaign aims to change how Ontarians think about sport and recreation, and its barriers

November 22, 2021
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Ontario Sport Network (OSN) is thrilled to announce the launch of a new awareness campaign, This is Your Sport, highlighting the importance of sport and recreation in the province. The campaign also brings attention to the barriers Ontarians feel are preventing their participation, including those resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to league closures, accessibility issues and safety concerns that caused a decline in enrolment rates across the province. 

“We've long known the importance of taking care of ourselves physically and mentally. Now we've witnessed the toll of inactivity on not only ourselves, but our children, our friends, and our community,” said Michele O’Keefe, Board Chair of OSN. “As leaders in the sport and recreation sector we must strengthen the pathway to activity, and the first step is removing the real and perceived barriers, which this campaign and future initiatives will address.”

In partnership with IMI International, OSN conducted a survey with Ontarians aged 13-64 to gain insights into the perception of sport, current physical activity levels and the barriers to participation they face today.  Results showed that, although many Ontarians (85%) are well aware of the health and social benefits of being in sport, more than one-third of those who claim to be somewhat physically active are participating in too little physical activity. Additionally, 69% of adults believe that being physically active is important for their kids, but only 44% believe activity to be important for themselves. 

The survey shows that some of the most commonly perceived barriers for Ontarians to participate in sport can be directly attributed to the pandemic, including league closures due to COVID-19, as well as concerns about health and safety. That said, many of the other identified barriers did not pertain to COVID-19 at all, including accessibility (lack of time and proximity), safety (bullying and lack of feeling welcome), and cost (affordability of sport).

  • Nearly 1 in 4 Ontarians (23%) don’t feel welcome in sport
  • 75% of respondents believe accessibility to be one of the biggest barriers to participation in sports
  • 42% of respondents had a child stop participating in organized sports within the last 12 months
  • Over 45% of Ontarians aren’t getting enough physical activity

“It’s clear that a majority of Ontarians see the benefits in sport and recreation, but many still aren’t enrolling and participating themselves,” said O’Keefe. “With the majority of barriers not pandemic-related, we are actively working to provide both the resources and the safe and inclusive spaces Ontarians need today.” 

OSN’s core focus will incorporate the Ontario Government’s mandate of Return to Sport and Safe Sport. Strategic partnerships and collaboration will assist OSN in providing the Sport Community with necessary information and resources following COVID 19, and will ultimately build on Safe Sport initiatives that have proven to be critical throughout the sector in recent years. These resources will include:

  • Regular speaker series open to all on topics relevant to the sector
  • Workshops for sport administrators
  • Online resource hub – a curated collection of best-in-class resources on sport policy

This awareness campaign will be showcasing a number of special interest groups, including Hijabi Ballers, Frontrunners, and more, so all Ontarians can see themselves in sport. The campaign aims to shift the perceptions of accessibility and safety around sport, encourage all Ontarians to start thinking about their participation by seeking out ways to enroll in leagues and programs, and raise awareness of the benefits of sport and recreation. 

OSN is dedicated to the promotion of sport and recreation across Ontario, bringing together sports organizations, nonprofits and government, in its vision to create a safe, active, healthy, and inclusive province, unified through sport.

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