Evidence of meeting #35 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was sport.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Welcome, everyone. Thank you for coming here today.

I'd like to ask Mr. Montopoli a question. I'm told that my town of Oakville has the highest number of coaches and players in Canada playing soccer, which is 12,000 young people and then coaches. I'm wondering how important these farm teams across Canada are in building your winning women's team. That is like the soccer movement. What is the connection? How important is it to have that?

11:50 a.m.

General Secretary, Canadian Soccer Association

Peter Montopoli

First off, I compliment you on being the largest club in North America.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

Oh, we're the largest in North America.

11:50 a.m.

General Secretary, Canadian Soccer Association

Peter Montopoli

Compliments to you and your city for having the vision on how to do it correctly.

It's very wise of you to ask that question, because two of the players from your club are on our women's national team program. They've come up through the system through excellent volunteers and administrators and, more importantly, through excellent coaching programs that you've implemented in your club. I think your city and your club has probably done the best job in Canada promoting the sport and how to do it correctly from an infrastructure perspective, which is a key component in terms of usage of all the fields in your city and having that under the umbrella of the Oakville Soccer Club, versus many multiple clubs. Through that, the control of the system and programs has been uniform throughout, allowing players to understand what's required to be a national team player.

I applaud your city and the work you've done to provide excellent players, both on the men's and women's teams, but especially on the women's side, where we count on your club to produce those players.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

Thank you.

We heard from Mr. Jones that a key health problem for Canadians, in particular young Canadians, is obesity. The elephant in the room, is these wonderfully engaging video games that create couch potatoes, whereas it would be much healthier for our young people to be out playing a sport.

You said 44% of all youth play soccer, which is an amazing number. Could you comment on what our young people get out of soccer in relation to their health, but also other skills and disciplines?

11:55 a.m.

General Secretary, Canadian Soccer Association

Peter Montopoli

Certainly. Thank you.

Really, the number one skill and discipline is being part of a team, and leadership skills, team skills, friendships, and the opportunity in our sport where it's not about one player, one focus. In my presentation I talked about the best player in the world, and we should all be proud of that, but it's about a team and a team concept. It's not about yourself.

I think those other life skills are taught through many of the sports. I guess I'm more familiar with our sport, more passionate about it, where you're part of a team to be successful; you're not that one individual to be successful. So relying on your teammates, being a competitor and a leader, and you're part of a team to achieve greater success is probably what you're learning through our sport.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

Mr. Storgaard, the highest level of achievement at the Olympics and Paralympics is gold, but gold is really a symbol, I think, and it has a hidden meaning. That is what everybody strives to achieve, sort of what they learned along the way. I wonder if you could comment on what it does for Paralympic athletes to work toward achieving gold.

11:55 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer / Secretary General, Canadian Paralympic Committee

Henry Storgaard

Thank you very much for that question.

You're absolutely right: it's the journey, not the gold medal. I think that restores an individual's sense of pride, confidence, and achievement. To reflect on what Peter just said, that ability to be part of a team, to compete, to be the best in the world, all these things are vital to our athletes and to young children who have disabilities.

We have research that identifies that these children are isolated from society, in large part. They don't have as many friends, nowhere near as many friends as other kids, so it's vital for them to participate in sport, to have all those experiences that everybody else has in sport.

Our athletes are an incredible inspiration for all Canadians. They visit schools throughout the country, they speak at service clubs, and they are so proud to give back.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Terence Young Oakville, ON

That's helpful, thank you.

Mr. Lafontaine, could you comment on how training in swimming and achievements transfers those skills and disciplines to other aspects of someone's life in other areas of endeavour? We often see how star athletes end up being achievers in whatever they do in life. Can you comment on the skills transfer?

11:55 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Swimming Canada

Pierre Lafontaine

Great question.

I'm sure very few parents will ever put their kids in sports to get to the Olympic Games. They do it to build all these great skills that you guys have brought. But what I find is that these kids are often very goal-oriented, because that's one of the concepts: we're going there in three weeks, six months, two years.

I think they've also learned to desire issues such as being a great team player. You look at the leaders within their area—for me in my sport, there are six lanes in a pool, and there's always the concept of concentration, attention to skills, attention to details—and they're getting ready long-term as competitions approach.

I think there are so many great qualities that these kids have, but one of the main ones is they're forced to plan their school work, they're forced to plan their day-to-day organization. So if they swim at 5:30 in the morning, they have to make their lunch the night before, and they have to do their homework. They have to do so many things that average kids don't do. Athletes often have a higher GPA at university than the average student. On top of that, they represent their schools with great pride.

One of the biggest challenges we have when we get to that point is that we have a lot of Canadian kids who go to U.S. colleges. In my sport, 150 of my best swimmers go to the NCAA system. So we have to build our CIS college system where they want to stay in Canada and they want the pride to be in a Canadian university. They get wooed by scholarships.

I can tell you that most great Canadians who compete at the international level for Canada, and they do well in Canada, have stayed in Canada through the college system. They go to Canadian universities. For me, there hasn't been a Canadian who won a gold medal for Canada who competed in the U.S. in terms of college systems. So I think the quality we're looking for in terms of planning and long-term thinking is the reason we put our kids into sports.

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Young.

Mr. Nantel.

Noon

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses for making their presentations.

I would like to come back to the comments made by Mr. Montopoli and Mr. Jones, who talked about the importance of municipal infrastructure, and of concrete and ongoing support for families and young people. I also have a question for Mr. MacAdam.

Last weekend, I attended a classic tournament organized by the Express soccer club, from Boucherville. Almost 100 teams of young amateurs participated. The technical director of the Association régionale de soccer de la Rive-Sud, Valmie Ouellet, came up to me to point out an eight-year-old girl wearing number 9. She told me that the girl had been noticed, and she was supposed to join a workshop. I did not really understand. It all seemed very advanced. Ms. Ouellet had noticed a special ability in that girl, probably even in a specific position—for instance, as a left winger.

Mr. MacAdam, are the federal envelopes for supporting local sporting initiatives significant?

Noon

Director, Sport Excellence, Sport Canada, Department of Canadian Heritage

Lane MacAdam

Thank you, Mr. Nantel.

Clearly, the federal contribution is mostly aimed at national activities, through national federations. However, as Mr. Montopoli would probably confirm, his mandate does not consist only in developing the national team and our Olympic teams. Earlier, we talked about the local team, in Oakville, which produces thousands of young athletes. Those kinds of clubs help athletes get noticed. Young athletes with the talent and abilities needed to reach higher levels are identified. I hope that they receive funding and support, first at the local level, and then at the provincial level. Eventually, they are recognized by the junior national team; they undergo better training, participate in training camps and international competitions and, some day, join the national team.

The development system varies slightly from one sport to another. You have surely heard about the long-term athlete development model, which applies to every sport and helps determine how skilled athletes must be in order to compete at higher levels.

When I started playing soccer, at 10, we played on a large field. Over the course of a 90-minute match, we would touch the ball for about three minutes. However, things are completely different nowadays. The field has been adapted for four-on-four matches. Heavy emphasis is placed on skill development to help those young people get noticed and allow the ones with the required talent and interest to compete for Canada internationally.

Noon

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Thank you.

There is no doubt that federal support is necessary.

I would like to yield the floor to my colleague Matthew Dubé, who has a question about that.

June 5th, 2012 / noon

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

I want to begin by thanking you for joining us. I also want to congratulate you on the accomplishments you have highlighted.

Several of you have talked about issues related to youth activity, volunteering, and so on. I have my own little theory about that. I think that we may be victims of our own success, in the sense that young people are increasingly aware of the possibility to succeed. Previous successes result in much higher standards, and information dissemination makes it possible to watch performances much more easily than in the past. In particular, there is the whole YouTube phenomenon.

With that in mind, it may be important to create programs—especially at the local level—that will be ongoing and produce higher-calibre Olympic athletes. When I coached soccer and hockey teams, I often noticed that young people would quit because the programs were—let's be honest—kind of ill-conceived. Measures for achieving success were non-existent, coaches were not well-trained, and so on.

My question is for everyone. How can those programs be improved? Even though federal envelopes are mostly intended for national use, I think that they should still have a local component, so that lives in our communities can be improved and we can provide you with high-calibre athletes in preparation for the Olympic Games.

Mr. Jones?