First Call BC: Why Poor Kids Can’t Play Sports


Helping Our Kids Get Off the Sidelines, a poll commissioned by CIBC and KidSport Canada, has found that one out of three Canadian kids do not play organized sports because they can’t afford to. Respondents cited registration fees and equipment costs as the most likely barriers. The poll results can be found on the First Call website.

Three Boys Holding Sports Balls | Stock Image from Microsoft Office Images.

KidSport Canada is a national not-for-profit organization that provides families in need with assistance in covering sports registration fees for children 18 and under. In response to the survey findings, CIBC has announced a $1 million multi-year commitment to KidSport to help remove the financial barriers that prevent Canadian children from playing sport.

Key findings of over 2,000 Canadians parents surveyed found that parents overwhelmingly believe in the value and importance of and access to organized sport and that cost is a major barrier to access.

  • 87% of respondents believe sports participation is an essential part of a child’s physical development
  • In addition to health benefits (physical fitness/exercise), Canadians also acknowledge the importance of organized sport to a child’s overall well-being, with 84% saying sports participation is an essential part of a child’s social, and 80% an essential part of emotional, development.
  • 85% of respondents believe that sports participation builds stronger communities.
  • 91% of respondents believe sports participation teaches children important life skills
  • Cost was overwhelmingly identified as having the greatest potential impact on children’s participation in organized sport, far above all other factors.
  • 90% of respondents feel that organized sport participation is becoming too expensive, and 82% know a child who cannot participate in organized sports due to the cost.
  • Responses indicate that parents are spending an average of nearly $1,000 per child per year on organized sport – a heavy burden for many families to bear.
  • 73% of respondents believe that children’s sports have become too focused on winning.
  • Respondents indicated that soccer is the most commonly played sport, followed by swimming and basketball.
  • Responses indicate that households in BC are the most likely to have a child who participates in organized sport, and the prairie provinces are more likely to have 2 or more children participating.

An earlier Statistics Canada report, based on the 1992 and 2005 General Social Survey (GSS), found that:

  • Overall sport participation had declined between 1992 and 2005: Children’s participation in sport was influenced by gender, age, household income, parental education, parental involvement in sports activities, geographic location and immigrant status of parents. Boys were more likely than girls to be organized sports participants, but the gender gap was narrowing. Those in their early teens were more likely to be in organized sports than younger children.
  • Household income and education of parents influence sports participation, with organized sports participation highest for children in high-income families. Children from households with high incomes and those with highly educated parents were much more likely to be organized sports participants than those from low-income families or those whose parents have a high school diploma or less.
  • “Sporty parents have sporty kids.” Parents who are involved in sports activities themselves boosted the sports participation rates of their children, even if they were only spectators of amateur sport. In two-parent families, children’s organized sports participation rates were highest if both parents were involved in sports activities.
  • Family structure can affect participation. A key finding of the GSS results was that boys’ sports participation was almost the same for all family types; in contrast, girls in lone-parent families were less likely to be sports participants than girls from two-parent families. In lone-parent families, parents were less likely to be involved in sports than parents in two-parent families. If the lone parent was involved in sports, 69% respondents indicated that their children participated in sports compared with 27% if the lone parent was not involved in sports. Children whose mothers were under age 30 were also shown to be less likely to participate in sports than children whose mothers were in their 40s. “Parents who did not play sports themselves were asked about their reasons for not participating. Half said they have no time for sports and one-quarter said that they have no interest in sports. Few cited a lack of sports facilities or money….Not surprisingly, the children of parents with no interest in sports had lower rates of sports participation than those whose parents cited other reasons for not participating.”
  • Parents’ workforce status affects children’s participation. Among two-parent families, children’s organized sports participation was shown to be highest where the mother worked part-time and the father full-time; slightly lower when both parents worked full-time; lowest when the mother was not working.
  • Children of recent immigrants are less likely to participate in organized sport. According to the 2005 GSS, children of recent immigrants were less likely to participate in organized sports (32%) than children of Canadian-born parents (55%).
  • Place of residence influenced organized sports participation. In 2005, the organized sports participation of children aged 5 to 14 was highest in Atlantic Canada and lowest in BC and Quebec. It was also low (47%) in Canada’s three largest cities (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver), and highest in smaller cities and towns with a population between 10,000 and 50,000 (58%).
  • The report pointed out that other factors such as the quality of school sports programs and facilities, the safety of neighbourhoods, and the influence of peers may also influence children’s sports participation, but these factors were not examined in the 2005 GSS.