Friday, September 2, 2011

I Have A Dream.... (As posted on CBC)

As posted on CBC Sports Day in Canada Website.  Sports Day in Canada is happening on September 17, 2011 across Canada.  Go to CBC Sports Day in Canada to find out how you can be a part of the action, even in your very home! 

“A country can truly call itself sporting when the majority of its people feel a personal need for sport.” ~ Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee & father of the modern Olympic Games

I am an Olympian, a Team Visa athlete and the 2010 Commonwealth Champion in Athletics in high jump. Indeed, I am passionate about sports, not because of the medals I’ve won, but more importantly because of the positive influence sports has provided me off the track.

Ironically, it’s these superlative benefits that sports offer that are often not as recognized or as well understood. And this concerns me.

For if we did, would physical education be required only once in high school, when enough research has shown that if you can keep kids active throughout high school they are more likely to have a life committed to physical activity and healthy lifestyle behaviour? And that these students would also be more likely to achieve a higher level of education, be involved in their community, and would be less likely to engage in risky behaviour such as smoking, crimes and drugs?

Is there possibly a dollar amount that can be placed on the value of sports? I think not.

Sport promotes learning capacity, confidence, resiliency and the celebration of human excellence. As an athlete and Sports Psychology doctoral student, I know first hand the power that sport has played in my life.

I will always remember my high school teacher and basketball coach spending time with me during lunch hours, teaching me the skills of shooting, boxing out and rebounding. The year before, I sat on the bench and usually played the last 2 minutes of the game. The disparity between my skill level and my teammates was so great, I had naturally assumed I just wasn’t as talented. But during those lunch hours with Mr. Andy Symons, I learned how to become a better basketball player and in doing so, he also taught me one of the greatest lessons in life: the power of LEARNING through failure and practice. When something does not come easy, it is an opportunity to learn how to make that skill or ability easier!

It’s no wonder the researcher K. Anders Ericsson has found it takes 10,000 hours or 10 years of deliberate practice to master a skill

From the gym to the classroom to life, I’ve applied this fundamental lesson Mr. Andy Symons has taught me. It is what has allowed me to excel as an athlete and a student, entrepreneurially and creatively. And it is from this that the saying “where there is a will, there is a way” resonates with me. By the way, I did LEARN how to become a better basketball player that year and went from being a bench warmer to being the MVP.

Beyond its influence on education and excelling in life, sport promotes health. The number one cause of death in Canada is lifestyle related. Too many Canadians have adopted an unhealthy lifestyle and are expiring long before their time. Stroke, diabetes, heart disease and the various forms of cancers are all examples where the adoption of sports and physical activity can prevent their occurrence!

Canadians rightfully share a concern for our healthcare system that is under immense strain, Each of us must recognize the role we each play in adding to the pressure of a system that is about to burst and contribute to the solution.

It doesn’t need to be costly or difficult. It can be cheap, easy and fun. I’m talking about getting involved in sports - feeling that personal need for sport. It’s time we as Canadians begin to be proactive instead of symptomatic in our approach to healthcare in Canada.

I believe in a healthier Canada and I believe in the power of sports to facilitate this.
Sports Day in Canada is certainly one giant proactive step, and I hope the majority of Canadians will join me in being active on this day.

Visa, an Olympic sponsor for the last 25 years and sponsor of this year’s Sports Day in Canada, has long recognized the value of sports in society. In its second year in existence, it excites me to be a part of this event once again, as a Team Visa Olympic Athlete. It is exciting to be a part of this far-reaching initiative, and if I can have it my way, I’ll continue to be a part of this event for the rest of my life.

Nicole Forrester, 2010 Commonwealth Gold Medalist, Olympian, Team Visa Athlete & PhD Candidate