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Increasing access to winter sports

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Increasing access to winter sports

How can we break down barriers to access and opportunity? Two things can help.

You do not necessarily have to live year-round in naturally snow-laden locations to participate in winter sports (examples to the contrary include the Nigerian bobsled team and athletes who transition from inline to speed skating), but these sports do tend to be more difficult to access for all but those with the greatest resources. Social class, gender, physical abilities, age, and ethnic and religious ideologies can all influence who wants and gets to play a sport (Coakley, 2015). Equipment and facilities cost more for winter sports, and lack of exposure and resources often keep people from involvement.

So how do we break down barriers to access and opportunity, or even get certain demographics interested in winter sports in the first place?  These two things can help.

1. Increase visibility

Prospective participants must see others engaged in these sports, and those others should look like them. When a girl of colour sees Maame Biney or Zahra Lari on the ice, she might envision herself there as well. When a differently-abled person sees someone like him cross-country skiing, it is easier to think he, too, can enjoy the sport. And, while widespread use of media to promote the Winter Olympics and other elite events helps, it must trickle down. Local communities can publicise individuals involved in winter sports, especially those who are breaking barriers in their sport.

2. Improve access and opportunities to participate

We must provide free and reduced-cost programmes to introduce and encourage participation in winter outdoor recreation. Local schools and municipal recreation programmes can offer activities or organise outings at low or no cost during school vacation weeks, after school hours, and on weekends.  We can build unity through reasonably-priced community-based organisations such as the cross-country ski team at the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, Maine that bring people together who might not otherwise interact, but share an interest and begin to see each other as friends. We can also target children and their families for winter vacation camps and weekend adventures. Children and their families can be introduced to winter sports through programmes such as the Appalachian Mountain Club. While costs do apply, this has the added benefit of family time.

Traditionally, winter sports have been viewed as a pastime for high-income people in select areas. We must ensure winter sports are universally accessible to anyone who wishes to participate in them.

Corri Wilson is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Colby-Sawyer College and Founder of All Girls, All Sports, an organisation dedicated to promoting access to all sports for all girls and women. She holds a B.S. in Sociology from Geneseo State University (NY) and an M.S. in Sport Management from Southern New Hampshire University (on campus). She currently lives in New Hampshire, where she likes to go for walks with her grandpuppy Sky.


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Corri L. Wilson


Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 12:29