Over the past two years, COVID has changed the way we look at pretty much everything. The way we work, live, and play. The impacts on everything we cherish and hold dear have ranged from mild to profound. Few things have been unaffected by this terrible disease. This pandemic has forced us to consider what is important to us and what we value most in our lives and society.
One thing that is becoming evident is how much sport means to our kids, our social fabric, and our collective engagement as a society. In the early waves of the pandemic, sport was shut down completely (not once, but twice), restarted, adjusted, constricted, and altered in ways we never would have thought imaginable. Sport, like every other part of society, needed to change to be a part of the collective effort to help reduce the loss of life and ensure the continued operation of our healthcare facilities and hospitals. There has been a cost – mental and physical health-wise, as well as economically. Any parent who has children in sport of any kind can attest to the sense of loss and disappointment in how these impacts have changed the mental and physical health of their children. It has been challenging and frustrating to say the least. But there will be a silver lining to this pandemic.
Not since the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic or the 2nd World War has sport (both amateur and professional) been affected in ways we could not imagine. The question is not whether sport participation and operation will recover or continue but rather how much it will grow and change. I believe the silver lining of the pandemic is that sport is primed for growth and expansion. This belief is rooted in three specific observations:
- We now know how important social engagement and involvement away from computer and TV screens is to everyone. Our mental health diminishes without the ability to participate in sport – whether as a coach, player, volunteer or spectator.
- Our individual health relies on physical activity. Sport at all levels is a big part of children’s daily health development and sustainability. The more active we are, the more we are able to fuel oxygen to the mind and body. We feel better. We just do.
- The business of sport participation and event hosting is a multi-billion dollar business and one that brings economic and social benefits to our society. We love to watch things in person. We miss it. Sport events are one of the last few things that are spontaneous, raw, and unexpected. That is why we watch and why we need sport events to flourish for years to come.
Red Deer is such a great community and such a special place when it comes to sport. As someone who has been all over Canada and experienced many sport programs and facilities, there are few places that can compare to Red Deer. The quality, care, and abundance of our sport facilities is rare in Canada. Red Deer has a vibrant and engaged sports community, one that creates quality programs and opportunities for all age levels.
Our challenge is not so much to sustain our sport participation but to ensure we can manage and support it as it grows. Growth requires investment and alignment. As much as Red Deer has a good foundation for growth, we need more. We need collective motivation, a clear value proposition, and a better understanding of how important sport and participation are to the fabric of our society and community.
In the coming months and years, Central Sport, the newly formed 2019 Canada Winter Games legacy organization, will be committed to building this collective motivation amongst sport and community leaders. We will be driven to communicate the value proposition that sport brings to our city, region, and every individual citizen. And most importantly, we will be advocating for continued and new investment in sport infrastructure, programs, and education to empower and enhance our sport organizations of all kinds, shapes, and sizes in our city. The next generation of our society’s leaders and builders comes from those engaged, healthy, and productive citizens of which sport plays a critical role for many.
Stay tuned to learn more about who we are and where we will be helping sport in Red Deer and the region in the months and years ahead.
Central Sport, CEO