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Physical Activity: Time for action Why governments should invest in sport

Why – and how – Governments should Invest in Sport By Dr. Colin Higgs, Prof. Emeritus, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, and Canadian Sport for Life Leadership Team

There are really only two questions that governments around the world need to consider – Why should they invest in sport? And, how can they get maximum return on their investment? Why governments should invest in sport The “why” question has both simple and complex answers. Governments invest in high-performance sport to increase their country’s profile on the international scene, and in mass participation sport to improve population health  – usually targeting obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and strokes. They may also invest in sport as a costeffective approach to positive youth development. From a business perspective, however, governments should invest in sport because it provides a better return on investment than just about ANY other government program. Area of Sport ­Investment  * Health (physical) Health (mental) Personal development Community economic development Community regeneration Community safety Social Inclusion

Strength of ­Evidence Strong Strong Strong

Savings per $ 1.00 invested in sport $ 1.75 to $ 3.75 $ 1.75 to $ 3.75 $ 2.90 to $ 6.20

Moderately strong

Not well quantified

Emerging evidence

$ 3.00 plus

Moderate Moderate to good

$ 3.00 to $ 41.00 ** Not well quantified

* Taken from, “A Sport Plan for New Brunswick, 2008”. ** If incarceration costs are included

Maximizing return on investment The investment that governments make are frequently squandered because different components of the system (ministries of education, sport, recreation and health) fail to work together; with each teaching different variations of the same activities, and making conflicting demands on participants. For example coaches from schools, clubs and national teams may all make demands on players, often without considering the cumulative impact.



Different systems pull participants in different directions Education System Physical Education

School Sport

Recreation System Formal


Sport System Sport Clubs

Representative Teams

Health System Preventative


What is needed is a “game plan” for the whole system. Canada has been developing such a game plan over the past 6 years, and the process is called Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD). Long-Term Athlete Development Long-Term Athlete Development is the answer to the question, “What do you need to do at each stage of human development to give individuals the best chance of success in sport or physical activity as an adult?” Success in sport is defined as reaching the highest sport potential of which the athlete is capable, and success in physical activity as engaging in health promoting physical activity throughout life. All too often coaches want immediate results – they put the tall kid under the hoop in basketball, and all she ever learns is how to catch, turn and put the ball in the net. Now while this might help an under-12 team win an impressive number of games, it does nothing for the long-term development of the tall player, who might not be the tallest 18-year-old when she reaches that age. Because of the restrictive way she was coached earlier, she might not have been taught or learned the whole range of skills necessary to play successfully as an adult. In building Long-Term Athlete Development coaches, scientists and educators identified 7 stages of athlete development. These stages, their names, and the approximate ages at which children and youth pass through them, are shown in the figure on the right.

WFSGI Magazine 2014 - Sporting Goods: The future of manufacturing?  
WFSGI Magazine 2014 - Sporting Goods: The future of manufacturing?  

The WFSGI Magazine is a global high profile publication for the sporting goods industry. The 2014 edition is now available free of charge on...