School sports pay divividends

As a physician, taxpayer, and most importantly, as a concerned parent, I am writing to you about the lack of dedicated funding in place for sports in our public schools.

I applaud the recognition both the federal and provincial governments have shown around the escalating problems of childhood inactivity and obesity. While these advertising campaigns effectively raise public awareness, the next logical step must be to commit to dedicated funding of school sports programs which address many of these health/social issues. Ensuring there are ongoing and cost-effective programs is money well spent.

In my own school district, funding cuts have led to significant budget cuts in support of school sports: each high school has lost $10,000 annually.

What this has immediately translated into is no funded busing to school events, no funded team prep time, no allowances for substitute teachers to cover classes allowing teachers to coach, and no funding for equipment. We are already seeing school teams disbanded due to lack of funds and support for team coaches. Once one team fails, the other schools have fewer or no teams to play against, and a whole sports program can fall apart very quickly.

It is much more difficult to restart a sports league than to maintain one. And equally problematic, due to shortage of coaches junior and senior teams are now being rolled into one, which is also a troubling, ill-advised and unworkable response.

Not all students in any school will be involved in intramural sports but at least one-third of the school typically is, and frequently even more. It is often the only access these children have to both learning and being actively engaged in sports.

With the government’s own recognition of the deeply concerning statistics and future projections surrounding health care for less active generations — protecting funding for school sports is a vital and immediate necessity.

Supporting school sports and allowing for the support of teachers/coaches makes sense from both and educational and health care perspective. We all appreciate that the current economic realities make budget decisions more difficult.

Supporting school sports, which already have a structure, tradition and place in our communities, is a budget decision that requires no hesitation. If intramural sports are to survive in our school system in the long-term, with all of the proven benefits they provide, support must be committed, ongoing and given now.


Joan Croft, MDCM, CCFP-EM