Multisport programs are a relatively new concept, but they’re growing in popularity with parents and kids. Besides being fun and excellent for developing physical literacy, they offer convenience and affordability for parents who are looking to give their children a positive early introduction to sport and activity.
Multisport programs are those that expose kids to a variety of sports and activities with one simple registration. They can be anywhere from a week to a year in length, but they generally introduce kids to at least a half dozen physical activities in that time.
Coaching experts believe the multisport approach is the best way to help preteen kids develop a broad variety of fundamental movement skills and physical literacy. It provides an excellent foundation for lifelong physical activity, but many coaching experts believe it also gives kids the best chance for reaching the collegiate and professional sporting ranks in their late teens and adult years.
Where to find multisport programs
Multisport programs aren’t available everywhere in Canada, but if you’re the parent of a young child, it’s worth looking to see if they’re offered near you. Weekly camps are generally offered by community recreation organizations on a seasonal basis, whereas longer programs are usually delivered as collaborations between different sport and recreation groups across the community.
If you’re interested in finding a multisport program for your preteen child, you can start by inquiring at your local recreation centre or YMCA. If they don’t offer multisport programming, they might be able to tell you who does. You can also do an online search using the name of your city or town followed simply by “multisport.”
Good examples of multisport programs
Across Canada, there are a variety of community sport and recreation organizations that now offer multisport programming for young children. Most are non-profit groups but some are for-profit businesses.
The best example of a year-long community-based program is probably Antigonish Multisport in Nova Scotia. A collaboration between 11 different organizations, it exposes primary and grade 1 children to close to a dozen sports including soccer, hockey, basketball, baseball, badminton, gymnastics, swimming, and more. The cost of registration is only $350 for the September 2021 to May 2022 program.
YMCA of Canada
A number of local YMCAs across Canada offer short-term multisport programs ranging between one and three weeks in length. The YMCA of Lethbridge and YMCA Langara (Vancouver) both offer programs for kids ages 6-12 years. The Home School Multisport program in Lethbridge introduces kids to badminton, basketball, volleyball, and more, and it welcomes all levels and abilities. Some YMCAs offer kids drop-in multisport programming free to YMCA members, while others may charge a minimal cost of $20 to $30.
A good example of a private multisport program is Sportball. Depending on where you live in Canada and the age of your child, different program formats might be offered, and according to the season, the programs might run indoors or outdoors. For instance, the Multisport Parent and Child program introduces toddlers ages 16 months to three years to the fundamental skills of eight different sports. Other programs focus on ages three to five, five to seven, seven to nine, and nine to 12 years. Programs generally run for two months with a new sport each week. Depending on the age of your child and the exact program, registration cost can run between $210 to $252.
Run Jump Throw Wheel
Athletics Canada developed the Run Jump Throw Wheel (RJTW) program to teach children fundamental movement skills and develop physical literacy. It uses games and activities based on track and field events to teach the fundamentals of running, jumping, throwing, and wheeling (for children in wheelchairs). To see if a RJTW program is available near you, call your municipal recreation department or do an online search using the search terms Run Jump Throw Wheel and the name of your community.
Richmond Olympic Oval
Following the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, one of the new roles of the Richmond Olympic Oval has been to support community recreation, including multisport programming and kids’ physical literacy. The Oval runs children’s multisport camps tailored according to season and age.
“Our camps usually run on March break, or Spring break, and throughout the summer months as well,” says Greg Huzar, program coordinator for Olympic Experience. “They are a great way to introduce kids to a variety of sports. When you sign up for a camp, you’re really signing up for five or seven days of unique experiences each and every day, where you could be doing anything from rowing to basketball, volleyball and more. Our camps are a great way for kids to get exposed to a variety of sports, figure out the sport that is of interest to them, and put them on that path to success.”
Sport Manitoba’s summer multisport camps help kids ages 8-13 years to develop confidence, teamwork, and multisport skills. The camps provide opportunities for kids to have fun as they try sports and activities such as badminton, fencing, tennis, curling, and more. Registration for a one-week summer camp in 2021 cost between $209 and $249.
Winnipeg Newcomer Sport Academy
The Winnipeg Newcomer Sport Academy was founded in 2016 as a venue for providing refugee newcomer youth and their families with quality multisport programming. The academy also helps to promote positive integration into the community, welcoming families with a spirit of inclusion that respects and honors their culture. In addition all activities, games, and training are designed to be consistent with Long Term Development and True Sport Principles.
Canucks Autism Network
The Canucks Autism Network (CAN) delivers multisport programs across British Columbia’s lower mainland, interior, and Vancouver Island. CAN programs serve children ages seven to 12 years who are on the spectrum, providing them with the opportunity to be active in a safe and supportive environment. The program is built around station-based activities that develop fundamental movement skills in a fun way. Program sessions introduce skills relating to physical literacy, soccer, and basketball. Each session is 60 minutes in length, and there’s one per week over several weeks. Siblings are welcome to register alongside their sibling with autism as long as they meet the age requirement.
Providing a positive introduction to activity
Most parents don’t expect their children to reach the professional ranks of sport, but just about all parents want to see their kids receive a positive introduction to physical activity. Quality multisport programs provide the foundation for both. They offer the kind of positive experiences that encourage kids to stay active for life, and they provide aspiring athletes with a spectrum of athletic skills for success at the elite levels.
Advocate for a multisport program in your community
If your recreation centre doesn’t offer multisport programs, forward them this article. Multisport programs are excellent for getting kids active, and parents love them for convenience and affordability. Everybody wins!