Summary of Notes: High Performance Sport Roundtable
The purpose of the summary of notes is to document key takeaways from the high performance sport roundtable held on October 8, 2020. The sector specific roundtable was comprised of approximately 15 representatives of major organizations and groups with representation from different regions and intersectional identity communities. The goals of the roundtable were to:
- Ensure high performance sport stakeholders are heard and have an opportunity to express their thoughts/ideas.
- Understand on-the-ground impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the high performance sport sector and organizations.
- Have constructive discussions to help identify potential avenues that could help accelerate recovery.
- Build a common understanding of the kinds of support needed, and the federal government’s role in supporting recovery efforts.
At the start of the roundtable, the representatives shared their general experience on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the sector and their respective organizations. The introduction was then followed by three segments around the following recovery framework: (1) Diversity and Inclusion; (2) Access to and Appeal of Sports; and (3) Environmental Sustainability including a more sustainable and adaptable sector.
Impact of COVID-19 on the High Performance Sport Sector
- The sport ecosystem is fractured; many sport organizations are in “in survival mode”; there have been significant losses in membership; Provincial/Territorial Sport Organizations (PTSOs) are putting pressure on National Sport Organizations’ (NSOs) board members to guide the development and implementation of return to play protocols.
- Participants emphasized the fragility of the economic model for sport, variance in experience among NSOs, and particular concern for club and community-based sport organizations.
- The federal government’s emergency support funds were appreciated (e.g., Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations). The sector noted a preference for a separate sport sector fund.
- Participants raised concerns about athletes’ and coaches’ physical and mental health due to event cancellations, limited access to training facilities and loss of income. Similar concerns were expressed for para athletes, compounded by the loss of personal care workers to help them with home training.
- The pandemic presents an opportunity to “rethink, revise and reposition” how to operate moving forward, better align the sport system, and co-create the way forward, noting online learning as a new way of doing business.
Diversity and Inclusion
Participants were asked for their views and suggestions on possible initiatives to encourage diversity and inclusion in the sport sector, especially related to hiring practices to attract members from equity-seeking groups. The main suggestions were to:
- Better measure the current lack of diversity in the sector. For instance, identify locations/regions and sports with the greatest gaps to target efforts where needed.
- Create better synergy between safe sport and diversity and inclusion ecosystems across jurisdictions. Encourage conversations about equity and inclusion at the Federal-Provincial/Territorial table to foster policy alignment and efforts to influence training and education streams. This will produce qualified diverse personnel and create the population base to flow through for next generations, both for national teams and to sustain an employment pool.
- Some sport organizations are seeking greater flexibility on excellence funding (particularly in the short term) to help build back from the pandemic and to advance diversity and inclusion.
- Increase investment in and access to sport infrastructure (ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities), creating community-based facilities, especially in locations where priority communities are being underserved, leading to more employment opportunities with a focus on representation.
- Encourage outreach to equity-seeking groups through targeted recruitment, internships, secondments, mentorship, and scholarship.
- Review and challenge traditional hiring practices that are reflective of systemic bias (e.g., qualification criteria for hiring processes that can only be obtained in the sport system) and review the channels used to recruit to leadership and board positions (widen target audience beyond those already in the system).
- Understand and reduce the barriers to inclusion for para athletes, both as participants and employees, ensuring that para athletes can see themselves in system leadership.
- Ensure consultation practices are in place; the policies and practices of sport organizations should reflect the input of equity-seeking groups.
- Impose accountability guidelines related to governance, including representation of equity-seeking groups on Boards of Directors. Renew efforts to reduce financial barriers to sport participation.
- Develop a national campaign to showcase the diversity of Canadian athletes and para athletes.
Access to sports and their appeal to Canadians
To stimulate the discussion in the second segment, the following question was asked: What does it take or what would organizations need to promote the accessibility of sports and their appeal to Canadians? Some of the key ideas and takeaways included:
- Make the sport system easier to understand. Map out the public versus private bodies and facilitate access to a pathway (online searches often direct to a club and do not allow users to understand the breadth of sport programming).
- Make it easy for Canadians to identify a quality sport program by creating a national sport program and/or personnel quality designation that sets minimum standards for the sport sector.
- Recognize the limitations of NSOs (and Multisport Service Organizations) to reach vast numbers of Canadians and directly influence participation.
- Reduce barriers to participation, including by increasing awareness of existing offerings for para sport.
- Work to ensure that facilities remain open and accessible to the greatest extent possible during the pandemic and the recovery. Temporary and permanent losses of facilities will have a negative effect on participation, and will hamper efforts to advance diversity and inclusion in sport.
- Encourage partnerships with non-sport not-for-profit organizations (e.g., sport as a tool for integrating newcomers at the community level), recalling that team sport remains within the school system’s domain.
- Invest in “gateway” sports that are precursors to participating in other sports (swimming leads to water polo, artistic swimming, canoeing, sailing, etc.)
- Develop a recovery strategy to include sustainability thresholds and objectives.
- Create job opportunities and leadership programs to bring more Canadians into the sport community, focusing on women and BIPOC.
- Rethink the Team Sport Strategy; team sports are inadequately funded given their level of success, current participation rates and potential for outreach to equity-seeking groups.
- Support internship programs, which can be populated through NSOs and PTSOs throughout Canada.
- Leverage existing recovery initiatives to promote the importance of physical and mental health.
- Redefine ‘the system’ by making a concerted effort to create linkages between sport and recreation, and reducing artificial boundaries when making policy and programming decisions. Consider setting up a task group to explore a fundamental system redesign focused on a more effective and efficient sector.
To stimulate the discussion in the third segment, the following question was asked: What environmental sustainability opportunities can be leveraged from the present circumstances to bring positive change? Some of the key ideas and takeaways included:
- Acknowledge the impact of sport on the environment and determine appropriate performance measures leveraging the voices of athletes to deliver the message.
- Identify partners with expertise in environmental sustainability to work with the sport sector: the federal government could create a partnership program between the experts and willing/interested NSOs.
- Develop a sport infrastructure road map with planned investments in green sport infrastructure; particular focus is needed on ice facilities.
- Engage key stakeholders in F-P/T decision-making processes related to green initiatives, such as with athletes and para athletes.
- Repurpose unspent P/T bilateral funds towards green solutions (e.g., tree planting to offset carbon emissions, environmentally sustainable options for ice making, studies into no-meat high-protein diets for athletes as cattle and beef industry are high-carbon emitters).
- Leverage digital platforms to deliver sport programs and events.
- Set-up of green objectives (e.g., reaching a certain carbon footprint by 2025).
- Invest in partnership programs or opportunities to support organizations that want to become more environmentally sustainable; create and implement a framework related to climate change.
Towards a more sustainable and adaptable sector
Participants were asked: What would the sector need to move towards a more sustainable/adaptable business model to prevail through similar situations in the future? Some of the key ideas and takeaways included:
- Better system alignment (especially between PTSOs and club-level organizations) to foster standardized policies and to ensure stakeholders’ accountability.
- Increased F-P/T discussion to develop agreements on measurable targets for improving the sport sector: ensure measurement of initiatives prior to decision-making.
- Investments in infrastructure to support community-based sport activities.
- Increased efforts to raise awareness about available sport programming.
- Establishment of funding protocol or standards to assist sport administrators to draw help from NSOs.
- Implementation of safe sport guidelines.
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