National Recreation Summit

This presentation explores the relationship between public sector recreation and organized sport at the national, provincial-territorial, and community levels beginning with the Canadian Sport Policy and the National Recreation Statement. It focuses on how collaboration between the sectors can be improved in a practical way, especially at the community level.

Carl Honoré was the keynote speaker last night, "In Praise of Slow".  Speed yoga, drive-through funerals, hyper-parenting, and the one-minute bedtime story should give us all a wake up call  - it's time to slow down.  Slow is about doing things at the right speed, and about quality over quantity.

But he says there are signs that change is coming. The slow food movement and the renaissance of farmers' markets, and slow cities, where quality of life, public art and recreation are given top priority are becoming more common Some workplaces are slowing things down by shortening work hours, encouraging staff to change the pace of work throughout the day, and by taking more control of technology (check your email less often!).

Recreation is not a frill or a luxury, and in a tough economy we all need recreation more than ever. So here are a few of Carl's suggestions for how the recreation profession can contribute to the movement:

Reboot the relationship with nature. In England, outdoor preschool programs are helping toddlers to be creative, healthier and more independent. Community gardens are providing opportunities for people to connect with nature and improve nutrition.

Dial down the pressure on kids - the "Ready, Set, Slow" initiative sees whole communities canceling homework and extracurricular activities for a day, so everyone can enjoy free, unstructured time. Youth sports can put more emphasis on play and less on competition.
 More challenging playgrounds that are not so focused on safety will be more fun for kids.

Carl challenged the delegates over the course of the summit to think about:

  • how to measure a healthy society based on criteria and to make sure recreation is part of what's being measured. (He cited the new Canadian Index of Wellbeing as a good example):
  • how to bring recreation into the core of urban planning;
  • collaborating with different disciplines;
  • being more open to communities and bringing the people who will live with the solutions into the conversations at the beginning;
  • changing the language of recreation to express its deeper meanings. That might include leisure counselors in schools alongside the career counselors or having leisure literacy as part of the curriculum.

Lots of food for thought and I've only scratched the surface!

We all have our sacred cows. You know, the way we've always done things. And the truth is, it often takes a lot to get us to try something new. We have our tried and true and, especially when we're stressed, we tend to fall back on what we know. It's not unlike cooking. Like many others, when I'm busy or rushed, it's the favourite recipes that I reach for. Yet, if we want to go in a different direction, relying on our old recipes is like only paddling on one side of the canoe. Not only will we have difficulty getting to a new place, we will be traveling in circles. It is true, as Alberta Einstein once said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them".

Ultimately I think that's why I'm so excited about the upcoming National Recreation Summit. Even before we arrive we're reading thought-provoking papers that are suggesting new ways of thinking and doing. As such, they are a reminder of how critical it is for each of us to remain open and receptive to doing things differently. And, once we arrive in the beautiful Lake Louise, we will hear from a variety of experts, and push our thinking by connecting to thought leaders from across the country. More than anything, we'll have the luxury of time for rich and courageous conversations about the power and possibilities of recreation and parks. After all, if we're serious about wanting different results in our lives, organizations, and communities, we're going to have to apply new strategies and new ways of determining our priorities.

There has never been a better time for our field and the potential role recreation, sports, parks, arts, culture, and active living can play in developing healthy individuals, vibrant communities, and a strong economy and environment. I can't wait to get started.
Brenda Herchmer
Director, ACE Communities
Alberta Recreation and Parks Association
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I am very much looking forward to participating in the upcoming Recreation Summit at Lake Louise. A national gathering to discuss the future of recreation in Canada is long overdue.

Given the evolution that our sector has experienced over the past couple of decades, I am excited about the possibilities and opportunities that will most certainly arise from this impressive event. The commissioned papers are thought provoking and deal with topics relevant to Summit participants from government, recreation and parks associations and aligned stakeholder groups.

I am confident that the Summit will result in strategies and initiatives that will guide our field for years to come.

John Frittenburg

Watch this blog for ongoing posts during the summit - we will be bringing you photos, summaries of discussions, and videos of some of the presentations.

Our intention is to provide an informal and very current record of the summit, for those who are not attending but want to feel connected.

You will also be able to stay connected via Twitter (#nrs2011) and Facebook, so watch for things to heat up as the summit gets underway!