Change is Happening and Clear Communication is Needed

It has been said that the only thing in life that is constant is change.

Changes are happening at every level of youth sport as there is a push to focus on developing athletes rather than winning.

These changes are due to the fact that more and more children are choosing to drop out of organized sport because they are experiencing what sports psychologists have deemed “athlete burnout.”

Many organizations are making the conscious effort to address this problem. The Ontario Soccer Association, for example has phased in Long Term Player Development so that their young players focus on building the necessary skills for lifelong love of the sport rather than the instant gratification of winning. I have been working with a local soccer club during this process, and I can tell you first hand it hasn’t always been the easiest to get parents on board with the changes.

In the beginning, many clubs presented changes to their membership as necessary and required by the OSA and CSA. We found that it was received much better when a full explanation for the changes accompanied the messages. Parents simply wanted to know why things were happening, not just what was happening.

Some communication methods the OSA has used to ensure this success are:

  • webinars
  • coaching clinics
  • grassroots workshops
  • print collateral
  • online resources
  • links well researched blogs

The integration of the message across multiple channels and from multiple sources has led to not only the acceptance but more importantly the understanding of why these changes were necessary. I encourage you and your organization to adopt some of these methods if you are undergoing similar changes – they’ve proved to be winning approaches!

The Ethics of Youth Sponsorship

Sponsorship is a public relations strategy seen in professional sports all the time. But does it have a place in youth amateur sport; if so where should the line be drawn?

ethics pathways

In many cases, sponsorship is an important aspect of youth sports, particularly at the the competitive level to help keep costs down. In the case of a British Columbia teen, the sponsorship of her soccer team forced her to choose between the sport she loves and an environmental cause very important to her.

Today’s youth have received a strong message from society – they have the power to create change. So, when a fourteen year old girl’s soccer club announced sponsorship by a company known to utilize open-net fishing practices her opposition was understandable. CBC news quoted the player saying “I believe they cause great harm to the wild salmon, and the wild salmon feed the coast here that I love so much.”

The basic details of the “solution”:

  • The elite club offered to return all player fees to the family so the teen could play elsewhere.
  • The player stayed with the club since the closest alternative was two hours away.
  • The family has been forced to stop their public opposition of the sponsorship.
  • The player has been unable to participate in a number of team activities and can’t explain why to her teammates.

Youth sports and the social interaction associated with them has proven to assist in the development of youth. In my opinion, this situation is a major ethical issue. This sponsorship was forced upon a youth and has essentially taken away her right to free speech. Unlike professional athletes, she did not choose this sponsorship and was not given the opportunity to select an association which fit with her personal beliefs and morals.

red card

I’d have to award this decision a red card, I find it simply unacceptable.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. How do you feel about the club forcing a fourteen year old to choose between sport and protecting the environment?

Yellowcard Day – A Social Change Initiative

yellowcardA unique social change initiative has been seen across social media this month. Motionball and The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) collaborated to launch Yellowcard Day for Special Olympics Canada on October 8, 2015. This was a unique event in which everyday citizens were urged to take a pledge to stop using the R-word (retard), and share their promise using the hashtag #nogoodway.

When I began school in September, I believed that IMC referred solely to the integration of various communication channels for one organization towards a common goal. I have since noticed that this integration can come in many forms. Take Yellowcard for example, it represents the integration of various organizations and individuals through social media all working towards a common goal.

The goal is to stop the use of the R-word. The initiative recognizes that in most cases the use of the word is not intended to be insulting or hurtful that it has simply become acceptable in society today and has lost its true meaning. In reality, the word continues to be hurtful to those with intellectual disabilities. All too often it is a painful reminder of the bullying they endured while growing up. Removing the use of this word from everyday conversations will make a monumental difference in the lives of our Special Olympians.

To date over 2.5 million tweets have been posted using the hashtag and over 12,500 individuals have pledged their support. I took the pledge to be a Yellowcard Ambassador because there is #nogoodway to use the R-word. I urge you to make a difference and take the pledge!

Toronto Blue Jays #ComeTogether

One Hashtag, One Sport, One Team, One Nation

It’s been a busy night on social media for Toronto Blue Jays fans. A night in the making for 22 years. For some of us it’s the first time in our lifetime we’ve experienced such a thing; or in my case the first time you’ll remember it (I was only 2 months old the last time the Jays made it to the ALCS).

It is moments like this that ignite a passion not always found in Canadians. We saw it in 2010, when we hosted the world for the Vancouver Olympics; as a nation we proudly stood together and told the world that we were proud of our athletes and their many accomplishments. Once again tonight, our country all paused in unison to watch a game that we all believed in our hearts would go down in the record books, but I don’t think anyone was ready for what we saw tonight. The storyline that unfolded on our TVs, Twitter feeds, and the radio for those of us stuck in traffic could not have been penned by the best of writers; what we witnessed tonight was simply a miracle.

When the call was made in the 7th inning allowing the Texas Rangers to go ahead it would have been all too easy for the Blue Jays and Canada to give up. But the remarkable thing is, no one did that. We all stood proudly together with the Blue Jays and saw that anything is possible.

This young Jay’s fan, dubbed #MiniBautista, certainly believed anything was possible. Many Canadians are thanking him for channelling all of his energy into swinging along with Jose Bautista when he hit that 3-run homerun that rewrote history tonight.

It is moments like this that ignite a spark in all children, not just young athletes. Tonight young boys and girls across Canada witnessed the remarkable things that can happen when hard-work and perseverance are combined. It was a reminder to everyone to never give up on your dreams.

Congratulations to the Toronto Blue Jays, you truly are Canada’s team. It’s amazing what you have done for the country this season; we will once again #ComeTogether with you on Friday night – Good Luck in the ALCS!

The Impact of Sport on 1,000,000 Canadian Children

Jumpstart – Giving kids a sporting chance.

Canadian Tire set out with a mission to remove the barriers from organized sport for those 1 in 3 Canadian families who are unable to afford it. This message was clearly presented to Canadians through this Jumpstart commercial from 2007:

The Jumpstart foundation has been a huge success since its launch by Canadian Tire in 2005; this September it celebrated its 10th anniversary and announced that they have enabled 1,000,000 Canadian children to enrol in an organized sport of their choosing.


In my opinion, a large reason that the numbers for Jumpstart are so astonishing compared to that of Hyundai Hockey Helpers is the sheer size of the organization and the brand ambassadors they utilize in their campaigns. One of the better known ambassadors is Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks captain and Winnipeg, Manitoba native. Toews can be seen in a commercial from 2014 supporting the work of the Jumpstart initiative and calling Canadians to action.

The interesting thing about Jumpstart is the breadth of their campaigns. At first glance, it is easy to view their commercials and assume that the sole focus is on hockey, but that is not the case. One look at their Twitter and it is very clear that they support a wide array of activities. They also utilize a variety of program ambassadors including Christine Sinclair, Canadian Women’s Soccer; Kaillie Humphries, Canadian Olympic Bobsleigh team member; and Charles Hamlin, Canadian Olympic Speed Skating team member. Their campaigns include Canadians from coast to coast in a variety of ways. Each and every Christmas season stores across the Canadian Tire banner, including SportCheck and National Sport, sell gift boxes to raise money for Jumpstart. Additionally, Canadian Tire stores have donation boxes in which customers can deposit the Canadian Tire money they just earned to help underprivileged children enrol in organized sports.

I believe that Jumpstart is so successful because it allows each and every Canadian to connect themselves to the campaign and recognizes the impact donations have on local communities. Similarly, Tim Horton’s tries to drive home the importance of childhood sport through their Timbits Hockey ads with Sidney Crosby; however, they do not seem to have the same effect. Mainly because there is no call to action or the “feel good effect” of contributing to child enrolment rates. Customer engagement with Tim Horton’s initiatives can be better seen through their Camp Day campaigns in which the customer knows their business is leaving a lasting impact on the life of a child.

The mayor of Dauphin, Manitoba, Eric Erwin, drove home this point when speaking about the excellent citizens children given the opportunity to participate in sport and group activities such as camps become later in life. He spoke to the sense of belonging a child experiences, while celebrating Dauphin being the top fundraiser for Jumpstart’s “Red Ball Campaign” in 2013 when the town was visited by Jonathan Toews. When it comes down to it that’s what everyone committed to programs like Jumpstart wants; we want to see children participate in sport and enjoy the experience.

How can we get more kids into the game?

Hockey Front“The only score that matters is how many kids are playing the game.” 

This message can be clearly found on all communications from KidSport who have over 170 community chapters across Canada to help remove the financial barriers that all too often prevent children from playing organized sport.

A unique initiative was launched between KidSport and Hyundai Canada with the goal of ensuring at least 1000 players facing financial hardships are able to play hockey each season. clearly illustrates the integrated approach they have taken with their dealerships, customers, and KidSport to get more kids in the game.

What is remarkable about initiatives such as these is the lasting impact they can make in a community. KidSport provides grants to over 60,000 children annually. The main reason for this initiative is that children being raised in low-income families are often unable to participate in sports; despite the proven fact that children involved in sport are able to further develop their motor skills, social skills, and creativity.

KidSport is not the only initiative of this nature. There are many other local organizations in Waterloo-Wellington with similar goals; including the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington, the City of Waterloo Leisure Access Program, and the City of Kitchener Leisure Access Card.

Despite all of the good work these many organizations do to fund sports participation for children, there is often a very limited marketing aspect to them simply because advertising is viewed by many as a large expense, especially in the non-profit sector. Much of their marketing initiatives are completed through their websites and word of mouth from minor sports organizations is heavily relied upon to get their message out. This presents many challenges, as the organizations want to be able to help as many children as possible but that also requires more donations if they are to continue growing.

Be sure to check back for my next post that will delve deeper into some of the marketing initiatives these organizations have undertaken in comparison to the highly publicized ads organizations such as Canadian Tire and Tim Horton’s have aired in relation to their funding initiatives.