Program Development

Municipal Recreation’s Role in Program Development

The municipal recreation system plays a vital role in contributing to the quality of life enjoyed by residents in communities across Canada. This includes addressing the broad individual needs of all age groups, as well as building supportive community environments. The municipal recreation role typically involves a number of elements including:
  • Preservation and development of outdoor environments within an open space system, including parks, pathways and bikeways, playgrounds, sport fields, and natural areas and features.
  • Providing a broad range of community indoor facilities, many within multipurpose complexes.
  • Developing program opportunities for personal growth and development, learning, and enjoyment.
  • Ensuring programs and facilities are affordable and accessible. 
  • Supporting the efforts of related community organizations to provide services within a community development approach.
  • Taking part in collaborative efforts to address local issues and improve overall quality of community life.

In short, municipal recreation is responsible to the whole community and all its residents. While a significant part of the municipal recreation role involves the direct provision of opportunities within indoor and outdoor environments, it also includes supporting local voluntary organizations in their provision of services. In most communities, the greatest single benefactor of support has been the sport delivery system – especially in terms of the use of municipally owned indoor facilities and outdoor sport fields.

For example, many children learn to swim and skate in municipal lessons. In addition, pre-school programs include basic movement education and physical literacy elements, as well as unstructured exploratory play. In many cases, learn to swim programs include awareness of aquatic sport opportunities and the transition to community sport programs. Children may also learn skills in individual activities such as tennis in municipal programs when at the right maturity level. Finally, a number of municipalities have partnered directly with sport organizations to offer exposure clinics or camps (single or multi-sport) within their offerings. 

A critical element in building a stronger relationship between recreation and sport is increasing the levels of mutual awareness and understanding that the two sectors have of each other. Building awareness needs to occur at the national, provincial/territorial, and local levels.

Lack of physical literacy has consequences not only for the individual child, but also for schools, recreation programs and organized sports. If children without physical literacy enroll in recreation and sport programs, instructors are hardpressed to provide equal instruction to those needing remedial assistance with those having good movement skills. More typically, however, children and youth who are not physically literate are unlikely to take part in recreation programs for fitness, health and enjoyment. This reduces the potential enrollment in recreation programs with an associated reduction in revenue. Reduced participation and reduced revenues make programs vulnerable, and with many municipalities keeping close watch on the bottom line, may lead to program cancellations and even facility closure.
Guidelines for recreational professionals to follow in developing quality programs that promote CS4L principles:
1. Municipal recreation departments should be at the forefront of physical literacy programming in the first two stages of Physical Literacy: Active Start and FUNdamentals. Further, where there is opportunity to do so, they should facilitate the transition to more advanced stages through partnership with local sports clubs.
2. Municipal recreation departments should inventory the variety of sport programs being delivered in their communities to identify what is available and determine the extent to which CS4L has been adopted.
3. The sport sector recognizes that many of the children and youth who enter their programs lack basic movement skills. As a primary service provider for children at the Active Start and FUNdamentals stages, municipal governments should make additional investment in the physical literacy programming to ensure that all children and youth develop basic movement skills. 
4. Municipalities should (re)examine their recreational programming to ensure that young children are given the opportunity to sign-up for yearround programs that combine exposure to a number of different sports, with fundamental movement skill learning opportunities and lots of skilldeveloping mini-games. Community recreation programs for pre-pubescent children should be designed to cover a range of physical literacy skills, rather than be organized as single sport programs.
5. CS4L-LTAD “is contingent on an optimal training, competition and recovery program that is based on biological development and maturation versus chronological age (i.e. although young athletes may be the same age, their bodies are at very different levels of development)” (Canadian Sport Centres, A Sport Parent’s Guide, pg 7). Municipal recreation programming should be based on this same premise. Strict age-divisioning may not be appropriate considering children of the same chronological age can be four years apart in developmental age.
6. Municipalities should have staff properly trained in CS4L-LTAD for internal programs, and encourage training programs for external leaders. 
7. Municipal recreation programmers and other front-line staff working in the community should regularly assess their programming with reference to the following:
  • Programs are accessible to all children and youth whether they are able-bodied or have a disability.
  • Multi-sport programs for the pre-adolescent children are focused on skill development.
  • Sport programs are delivered by trained or certified coaches or instructors.
  • Sport training opportunities are at reasonable cost to ensure access for all children.
  • Sport and physical activity programs are linked strategically with other interventions to address social problems.
  • Information material about CS4L and LTAD for parents is available at community centres.