Lea Norris is a mom on a physical literacy mission. She supports her 12-year-old son in hockey, swimming, lacrosse, golf and snowboarding, and her 9-year-old daughter in hockey, swimming, soccer and skiing. But there’s more.
She’s promoting physical literacy for her entire town.
Through Sport for Life Cochrane, a non-profit organization she started in 2009, Lea is working to develop kids’ physical literacy programming in her community.
How does she do it? By taking the message to local schools, minor sport groups and the community recreation department. Recently, she has spoken at countless school PAC meetings and met with dozens of community sport organizers and recreation programmers.
“Sport for Life Cochrane started because a few of us wanted to see our local minor sports become better aligned with the ideas behind Canadian Sport for Life and the Long-Term Athlete Development approach to kids sport,” says Lea.
Located just west of Calgary, Cochrane is a town of just under 20,000 people. It has a couple of high schools, a couple of middle schools, a handful of elementary schools and one very impressive recreation centre near the banks of the Bow River. And now it’s a hub for physical literacy.
“We know that our kids need to do a variety of sports and activities to develop physical literacy,” Lea says. “But how do you manage it as a parent? It used to be impossible for parents in Cochrane to get their kids into all the different activities that build movement skills, like swimming, gymnastics, skating, soccer and all the rest. You had to spend a lot of time and money, and even then you might not cover the essentials.”
So one of Lea’s first missions was to get local sport and physical activity programs to coordinate their activities, so more kids could do a variety of sports without scheduling conflicts and exorbitant cost.
At the same time, she has promoted the “Sport for Life” philosophy in coaching.
“We’ve worked hard to get sport coaches to think of their children as athletes first, and hockey players second,” says Lea. “We’re also forming alliances between different community sports to do common fundraising and shared training.”
“Canadian Sport for Life in Cochrane Week” ran from March 17-22, 2012. The public awareness project included free workshops for teachers, parents, minor sport coaches and sport organizers.
One workshop introduced teachers to physical literacy concepts, and all of them received a basic lesson plan for teaching physical literacy skills.
Another public awareness activity involved giving grade 4-6 students post-it notes to write their thoughts about their experiences in sports and physical activity. The notes were then posted in quirky places around the town for citizens to discover. (Inspiration for this tactic came from the campaign at operationbeautiful.com.)
“We’re trying to create change to improve the quality of local sport,” explains Lea. “To make local changes that will stick, we need everyone in town to know what physical literacy and sport for life is all about.”
Lea Norris has certainly championed the cause. As more parents take the physical literacy message to their local schools and sports clubs, we may see an Active for Life revolution in Canada.