Community Clubs Racquet Sports

‘I Can Play Anything!’ program constantly adapting to provide equal opportunities to all in sport

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By Keaton Hills

The RA Centre’s I Can Play Anything! program started out as a PhD student’s research project, and now the ever-morphing initiative is showing that its sport instruction philosophies can be applied in any setting too.

In collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario’s Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, University of Ottawa human kinetics student Angelica Blais first created the program in an effort to study physical literacy development in children with medical conditions.

Blais, a multi-sport athlete and coach who was part of the Gee-Gees’ dance team, knew from her experience that community-based sport settings are ideally suited to support physical literacy development. She also understood that children with medical concerns and their parents of can often be cautious about participating in sport, so an encouraging and supportive environment would be important to help build their skills.

Tess Crozier and Allie Frizzell, two of the program’s current leaders, note that giving skill-specific feedback is a key part of their approach.

“Oftentimes (coaches) will just say things like ‘good job’ or ‘awesome,’ which is great, it’s a very positive thing to say to the children, however it doesn’t necessarily help them increase their physical literacy levels by giving them skills-specific compliments and skill-specific critiques or suggestions that really help them develop their physical literacy,” explains Crozier. “So for example, instead of saying ‘great job,’ I might say ‘great job using the inside of your foot to kick the ball.’”

Crozier adds that this type of feedback helps kids gain confidence in many different aspects of their lives since the compliments have meaning behind them, noting something specific they’ve improved.

After the initial session with kids from CHEO, participants and their parents reported that the program now named I Can Play Anything! provided a meaningful way to try new sports and build confidence in their abilities, and they especially enjoyed the opportunity to sample non-traditional activities like archery and curling available at the RA.

ICPA was later tweaked into a program for kids with limited experience in sport and physical activity and was offered to individuals from low-income neighbourhoods in collaboration with the Ottawa Community Housing Foundation’s recLINK program this past spring.

Using the same methodology, ICPA was again adapted to be delivered as part of the RA Centre’s multi-sport and pickleball summer camps.

Being able to adapt the curriculum is critical to ICPA’s success, the program leaders underline. That means ensuring an inclusive environment where everyone has an equal opportunity, and accommodating participants who are at different levels of knowledge for a given sport, skill level or attention span. Leaders evaluate participants’ current abilities and split them into groups so that those who are still learning the basics have equal opportunity.

But despite the changes, the program’s roots serving children with medical concerns are still proving valuable. A boy who has epilepsy really benefitted from ICPA this past summer, Crozier and Frizell indicate.

“We’ve been able to kind of adapt some things for him and to ensure that he’s able to participate just like the other kids,” Crozier recounts. “And we’ve talked to our coaches about the warning signs for epilepsy and what to do in that case. And he’s been having a wonderful time. He’s come back for several weeks this summer, and he’s really been developing his skills.”

This article is part of the Ottawa Sports Pages’ Inclusion in Sport series. Read more about local sport inclusion initiatives at:

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