Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity


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How the LTAD Model Falls Short of Addressing the Needs of Immigrants

Over the last few weeks, I had  been working on my paper, which asks this question: How does Canada’s Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model, central to Canadian sport policy, fall short in addressing the needs of immigrants?

As some may know, the two figures below describe Canada’s current version of the LTAD model. This, briefly, is the multi-stage framework that provides a pathway through which Sport Canada recommends an athlete should be developed from infancy to adulthood, beginning with initial stages concerned with developing fundamental physical literacy, middle “Excellence” stages concerned with developing sport-specific skills to focus more on high performance, and the final “Active for Life” stage concerning itself with having participants engage in physical activity for life.

Current Version of LTAD Frameworks, Kin 6300 (Fall 2017)

The Challenge with Immigrant Integration & LTAD

LTAD was initially designed as a “cradle-to-grave pathway to serve all Canadians” (Grove et al. 2016, p. 11). However, a “one size fits all” approach just does not work for everyone, especially considering the socio-cultural factors that influence Canadian sport in certain directions (Thibault & Harvey, 2015). In particular,  the unique needs of immigrants present 3 specific challenges to LTAD:

  • First, immigrants find Canadian sport too structured, to a point where it can be “difficult [for them] to access” (ICC, 2014, p. 6). Indeed, the rise of technology and a cultural shift towards risk-aversion has meant unstructured, informal sport- like pick-up games popular in other countries- are on the decline in Canada. An overly structured system also makes sport more expensive and difficult to navigate.
  • Second, many immigrants come to Canada with different sports/ physical literacy skills than their native-born peers, making it difficult for newcomers to enter the LTAD pathway. Current LTAD often neglects the many athletes who may be entering sport or developing physical literacy at an older age, or who develop at an advanced pace, and late-entry pathways must be incorporated in the model.
  • Third, we reflect on the competitive focus of Canadian sport and LTAD model’s history, which can alienate many immigrants for whom sport is valued not for its competitive elements, but for giving the opportunity “to be healthy, fit and have fun” (ICC, 2014, p. 20). Indeed, there is a 9-to-1 resource allocation mismatch in funds given by government to competitive vs. community sport (Donnelly, 2012).

Out Proposal: Developing a New, Immigrant-Specific LTAD Framework

In the paper, I provide eight recommendations for LTAD, but they essentially come down to this: Just as Sport Canada has done in developing new LTAD models and pathways to address the needs of Aboriginal and disabled populations, a new immigrant-specific LTAD model should be developed. One preliminary proposal that I provide is below:

DRAFT Proposal for an Immigrant-Specific LTAD Model, Kin 6300 (Fall 2017)

In the above model, the most notable differences from traditional LTAD is the addition of an “Awareness” stage (similar to one designed for athletes with disability), that focuses on the unique challenge of communicating sport options to newcomers. As well, to address how newcomers come to Canada with different physical activity skills, a supplemental “Skill Equalization” stage is proposed, where immigrants’ skills are evaluated and plans are then developed to ensure they can “catch up” to peers if needed, or advance to higher stages of LTAD. Beyond this, other recommendations are also summarized in the box for “Other Considerations to Ensure Effective Implementation.”

Bottom-Line: The LTAD model relies on implicit socio-cultural assumptions about values in Canadian sport, which do not always align with the needs of immigrants. or other groups. Consequently, a new immigrant-centered LTAD approach is suggested, although our proposal is at best a preliminary model in need of more refinement/ research.

References Cited

Canadian Sport for Life. (2016). Long-Term Athlete Development 2.1. Retrieved from the CS4L website: http://sportforlife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/LTAD-2.1-EN_web.pdf?x96000. [NOTE: This is the main policy document that is critiqued in this paper.]

Donnelly, P. (2012, July 23). Turning Canada’s Olympic Success into Increased Participation in Sport. The Star. Retrieved from: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/2012/07/23/turning_canadas_olympic_success_into_increased_participation_in_sports.html.

Grove, J. et al. (2016). Durable by Design: Active for Life. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Sport for Life Foundation. Retrieved from: http://sportforlife.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Active-for-Life-Jan-2016-web.pdf?x96000.

Institute of Canadian Citizenship (ICC) (2014). Playing Together: New Citizens, Sports & Belonging . Retrieved from the website if the Institute of Canadian Citizenship: https://www.iccicc.ca/site/pdfs/PlayingTogether_FullR%20Online_Final.pdf 20Full%20Report.pdf.

Thibault, L. & Harvey, J. (2013). Sport Policy in Canada. Ottawa, ON: University of Ottawa Press. [NOTE: This is a fantastic book providing a detailed history and sociological critique of Canadian sport policy and is also accessible in e-book format online at: https://ruor.uottawa.ca/bitstream/10393/30369/1/9780776620954.pdf.]


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The Race to the Bottom: Youth Sport and the Increase of Competition for Younger Participants

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Sports have been a staple of childhoods across North America for centuries. The organized and structured games that children play are effective activity for solving problems and improving quality of life for individuals and society alike (Coakley, 2011). This is based off the acceptance that sport is a perfect avenue for leaders to instill the values, social norms and desired ideologies of their culture. However, academics have debated the timing of the intervention of organized sports in childhood, particularly those that are based on competition, with many critics concluding that structured play is having a damaging effect on youth (Cote, Lidor, & Hackfort, 2009) (Gould, 2010).

The rise of organized and competitive youth sport has been well documented, especially in the United States. Various books and media have explored the topic, with a large consensus being that the current delivery practices are having a negative impact on participants. One major theme found in the literature surrounding organized competitive youth sport is the prevalence of early specialization. The age that parents and youth are entering the field of organized and competitive play is plummeting, as more pressure is being applied to “get ahead” in the race of sport excellence. This pressure is developing at two particular levels – amongst parents and sport providers.

When understanding the trend of early specialization, it is important to understand the sport system in which the context is set in. For the United States, Tom Farrey’s book, Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children, provides a short and simple explanation of the American youth sport system.

According to Farrey, the American’s poor showing at the 1988 Olympics led the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to shift its focus on funding athletes (Farrey, 2008). The organization, which is responsible for coordinating and leading elite level sport in the country, began to strategically invest in competitors who were identified as having the potential to win medals, rather than the previous method of investing in all athletes who could meet an international standard for Olympic qualification (Farrey, 2008).

The USOC’s shift in policy caused a ripple that altered the entire sport system in the United States. Public money for grassroots development, the foundation of any strong sport system, was further reallocated for elite performers. This lead to many public sport associations, particularly school-based physical education programs, to cease operations, which lead non-public enterprises to quickly take over the amateur sports industry (Farrey, 2008). These organizations, such as Little League Baseball, Pop Warner Football, and YMCA, instituted pay-to-play models of business, which resulted in the exclusion of participants from low-income households (Friedman, 2013).

Following this shift in policy, youth sport in America has grown into a multi-million-dollar industry. These non-public organizations continue to push for a greater share of the industry, which has caused a fierce competition for participants. In a bid to increase their revenues, the directors of these organizations set their sights on hooking participants, and their cash flush parents, in earlier.

Non-public organizations have played on a theme that has roots in youth sport since it’s inception in the United States. Since the late 1800’s, scholars argued that sport, specifically those competitive in nature, was a device for moral development and social norms (Coakley, 2011) (Chandler & Goldberg, 1990). This was the foundation of school based sport, which was used to prepare students both physically and mentally for the industrial society that was emerging at the time (Friedman, 2013). This trend in sport continued until the 1960’s when a trend called the self-esteem movement began.

The movement marked a shift away from competition in public programing, as it was believed to be detrimental to youth development. Instead, a focus was placed on building confidence and pride in one’s own talent, while re-framing from comparing a child’s abilities to others (Friedman, 2013). This compelled parents, who possessed the financial resources, to pay-to-play providers such as Little League Baseball and Pop Warner Football to provide their kids with the foundation of values to succeed (Friedman, 2013). It was this belief that the pay-to-play organizations expanded upon and monetized.

Americans, like the vast majority of people, are willing to do anything for their children. Parents want to provide their children with a better life, and for them to enjoy everything they did in their youth. This means sports, and parents will do everything in their power to provide their child with the best chance at athletics. Sports in the United States favour early starters, and pay-to-play organizations are compelling parents into entering their kids in organized sports at younger ages.

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