By Janis Neufeld
More than 400 professionals from across the world and from a range of sectors including health, education, leisure, play, and sport gathered with the common goal of developing a global community committed to the development of physical literacy. The International Physical Literacy Conference 2015 was held in Vancouver from June 13 -16. In attendance from the Columbia Basin were Amy Shields and Nicola Marynowski from the Trail Gymnastics Club, Kim Palfenier from the Nelson Regional Sports Council and Sandi Lavery and I, Janis Neufeld from PacificSport Columbia Basin.
Physical activity is a lot more fun when we are physically literate. In addition, if we want our children to remain active for life, they need to develop physical literacy at a young age.
What is physical literacy? Professor Margaret Whitehead, University of Bedforshire, leading authority provided the definition as “…the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.” Physical literacy is the journey of gaining physical movement skills to enable and encourage participation in sport and physical activity throughout a life span. Furthermore, it is a well-established body awareness leading to fluent movement, which can be applied to any sport, or physical activity and is an understanding of the principles of holistic health leading to greater self-esteem and self-fulfillment.
Researchers in attendance shared studies and evidence to support the concept of children learning physical literacy skills in their early school years, rather than the previously garnered thought of focusing on sport specific skills to gain success. Giving opportunities and encouraging children to participate in a variety of sports, movements and experiences will create the foundation for specific sport skills further along in their development. This is an exciting concept for children and parents in the Columbia Basin due to our limited access to sport opportunities for youth, especially in rural areas. A child exposed to an environment developing physical literacy can reach their potential as an athlete without specializing at a young age.
The next step is to encourage our communities, schools, clubs and recreation organizations to adopt the principles and methodology of physical literacy. Decision makers in health, education and sport need to be influenced to adopt and embrace physical literacy as an integral part of the development of all persons living in the region. There are many resources available through the Canadian Sport For Life websites at www.canadiansportforlife.ca and www.physicalliteracy.ca.