Sports Leadership grads show kids ‘they can do it too’

The Toronto Sports Leadership Program celebrated its most recent graduating class earlier this month.

But each graduate’s personal success is only part of the story, says Ann Doggett, a city community recreation supervisor involved in the program, which provides opportunities through sport to at-risk youth.

“Youth that get their certification come back and then they actually work in the communities they come from,” she said. “That sets off a ripple effect, when children can say, ‘Oh, there’s someone I know from my community that’s working here’.”

They’re in a successful leadership role and I think that shows younger children that they can do it too.

—Susan Kitchen

By teaching important life skills like communication and problem-solving, students in the program learn to make better decisions and be good community citizens, Doggert said. Those core values then get passed on in the graduates’ communities as they return to coach.

According to program partner Toronto Community Foundation, half of participants said they took part in high-risk or harmful activities before attending. After the program, about 75 per cent go on to become nationally certified coaches, and almost all graduates said they have a higher sense self-confidence and self-worth than they did previously.

Like Doggert, Coaches Association of Ontario executive director Susan Kitchen said the program’s success is best seen after graduation.

“When they become a leader, they might be able to relate to and really help other young people who have had the same kinds of struggles,” she said. “They’re in a successful leadership role and I think that shows younger children that they can do it too.”

The Toronto Sports Leadership Program is a partnership among the city’s parks, forestry and recreation department, Toronto Community Foundation, YMCA of Greater Toronto, Toronto’s public and Catholic school boards, and United Way Toronto. More than 400 participants have graduated since the program started in 2005.

“Our vision is about developing leaders,” Doggett says. “Any young person that is looking at our core values as guiding principles is off to a good start.”