In this piece we will discuss the recently published 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity, by Active Healthy Kids Canada. For the first time, Canada’s report card has been compared to 14 other countries, providing some perspective into our country’s physical activity trends.

D- in Overall Physical Activity Levels

Overall Physical Activity Levels is the single most important stat of the report card, and Canada does not fare well, tied for 11th out of the 15 countries listed. 84% of our youngest children, ages of 3-4, meet the daily physical activity recommendation – this is a very promising number. However, only 7% of children between the ages of 5-11, and 4% of youth between the ages of 12-17, meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

F in Sedentary Behaviours

In conjunction with Canada’s poor grade in Overall Physical Activity Levels is an even worse grade in Sedentary Behaviours - tied for last within the 15 countries. Reflecting the daily physical activity rates mentioned above, sedentary activity for children and youth also increases with age (5.8 hours per day for kids ages 3-4; 7.6 hours per day for children ages 5-11; 9.3 hours per day for youth ages 12-17).

These two stats paint a troubling picture of the physical health of our nation’s youth. What, then, is Canada doing (or not doing) that is contributing to such disappointing rates of physical activity?  

B+ in Community & the Built Environment

Canada’s low grades for active and sedentary behaviours do not seem to be a product of a lack of facilities or opportunities. Tied for 2nd, behind only Australia, Canada’s infrastructure deserves recognition.

The number of available parks, pools, arenas, community leagues, and other facilities and programs provide great accessibility and numerous opportunities for our children to engage in physical activity. Community facilities need to be made available to our children as often as possible for casual participation when they are not booked for formalized activities.

A- in Non-Government Strategies & Investments

Non-government influence is a significant strength for Canada. Steve Nash Youth Basketball is proud to be part of a highly rated collection of non-government groups that provide physical activity and sport participation opportunities for children and youth in Canada.

While the report applauds the strategies, funding, and resources provided by programs such as SNYB, it also highlights that “partnerships and coordination of activities remain fragmented”. There is a need for improved communication and collaboration between national programs and community organizers.

C+ in Organized Sport Participation

Canada also stacks up well in organized sport participation among youth, ranking 3rd(behind only Australia and New Zealand). A reported 75% of Canadian youth (ages of 5-19) participate in organized physical activities or sports.

These numbers are encouraging, but there are notable weaknesses. Participation rates in organized physical activities drops considerably for girls, children with a disability, and those from low income households. Moving forward, improving participation rates for these groups should be a priority for program developers and community organizers alike. 

So how can we, as administrators and organizers of physical activity programs, help to improve the health of our nation’s youth?

Final Thoughts

The report highlights that Canadian parents rely on structured activities, community leagues and programs in addition to school curriculum, to get their children moving (79% of parents contribute financially to their kids’ physical activities). As organizers and administrators we must continue to pursue this willing investment from parents.

A word of caution, however – while parents are keen to invest in healthy activities for their children, organized sports alone are not enough. The report makes it clear that Canadian children do not engage in enough active play (physical activities lacking formal organization).

As providers of organized physical activity, we cannot forget that active play is a fundamentally important component of healthy childhood development. Encouraging kids, and their parents, to engage in unorganized physical activities is part of our social responsibility as advocates of sport participation, physical activity, and health living.
For those interested in reading the report in more detail, the full report (both short and long forms) can be found here.

Drill of the Week: "UNO"

Cards are a great tool to incorporate into skill development, adding a fresh new look to the same fundamental skills and drills. Today's example is an adaptation of "UNO".

Take a number of card decks, shuffled together, and deal out a hand to each player (or pair of players). We recommend that the cards be dealt face down. Space the kids around the outside of the basketball court, with a coach standing in the middle.

The value of each card stays constant (with aces representing 1 and face cards representing 10), and each suit is assigned a specific skill/exercise. For example:
  • Spades = Lay-ups
  • Hearts = Push-ups
  • Clubs = Free Throws
  • Diamonds = Sprints
When the game begins, each player (or pair of players) must turn over their top card and complete the number of repetitions of that skill. For example:
  • Jack of Spades = 10 Push-ups
When they have accomplished the skill/exercise, the player must run the card to a coach in the middle of the gym before returning to their hand to complete the next card. When a player is down to their last card, have them call out "UNO" as loud as they can. The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards (by completing the required skills).

The advantage of a game like this is that it is easily adaptable to the age group or skill level. Vary the number of decks/cards to the number of participants. Play around with different skills and exercises. Try "rigging" the deck so that older or more developed players receive a "more difficult" hand. The options are endless.

What other card games could you adapt to include basketball skills?
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