Sports, Recreation, and Poverty

Recent concerns with the establishment of a hockey academy at Britannia Secondary in Vancouver have led me to inquire further into the issues around sports, recreation and poverty. The new program, that has been discussed by the Vancouver School Board going back for about one year, has been presented as a program designed to meet a variety of needs at Britannia Secondary. One of the key objectives, it seems, is to address the falling enrollment in that school.

For enrollment issues see: BCTF Report; BC Min. of Ed. Press Release.

Discussions about the $1,400 per per student per year program have revolved around issues of equity of access. Is the program elitist? Are there underlying structural constraints that effectively make the program self selecting and exclusive so that students from low income families are excluded before they even come to filling gout an application? Time will tell on how this program works out but some recent research by UBC researcher Wendy Frisby, Chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Undergraduate Program and Associate Professor in Human Kinetics at UBC, can tell us a lot about the implications of poverty on access to community recreational facilities and, by extension on the impact of cost intensive sport programs.

A series of reports can be found on the web page of the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association that examine in some detail the implications of poverty for access to sports and recreation. Also of note is that the typical subsidy or lower cost approaches don’t work to include low income youth or women.

Dr. Frisby has also co-written a chapter for P. White & K. Young (Eds.) Sport and Gender in Canada. (pp. 121-136), Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press (2007), “Levelling the Playing Field: Promoting the Health of Poor Women Through a Community Development Approach to Recreation,” that builds upon a feminist analysis to argue for proactive ways to include low income women and their families that goes beyond the give a bursary approach. Download chapter.