Speed skating Olympian Cathy Priestner Allinger shares her personal inspiration behind a new media initiative at ViaSport, a not-for-profit organization responsible for providing strategic leadership to sport in B.C. and increasing levels of physical activity at every stage of life, in every community.
I started skating at the age of 11. With certainty, I can say that it was a decision that changed my life.
In grade 6, my family moved from Ontario to Winnipeg, Manitoba. As a new kid on the block, it was a casual invite from the two sisters next door that introduced me to skating - something that fundamentally defined my life path from that day forward.
I became an Olympian at the age of 15, won an Olympic medal at 19, and stayed heavily involved in every Winter Olympic Games for the 26 years following. I’ve also held roles as coach, administrator, volunteer, and broadcaster. Sport is, and likely will remain, the foundation of so much that I do.
Today, some people know me as the first person on the soapbox speaking to the power of sport and its ability to impact both individuals and communities. And although this isn’t a new message (nor am I the first to say it), my current role at ViaSport is to lead the charge in bringing this positive message of sport to more people, in more places, and for a longer time throughout British Columbia and beyond.
As part of our mission, we’ve recently launched ViaSport Productions: a new, online broadcast service that will live-stream amateur-level sports events and bring commentary and interviews into every home across the province and country, no matter where you call home. Through this service, ViaSport Prodcutions will bring increased exposure, promotion, and recognition to amateur-level sport, and increase participation in sport by British Columbians at every age and skill level.
Awareness is the first step toward increased participation in sport
When I was 11, I was lucky to have been provided with an opportunity to give skating a try, because I was in the right place at the right time. I was invited to try something new – so I did. I didn’t know anything about the sport world at the time, nor would I likely have been exposed to it through any other means.
It’s a different story for kids today. Technology is accessible anywhere and everywhere. We’re tapping on smartphones and tablets, tuning into YouTube, browsing websites, and streaming our favourite online shows at all hours of the day and night. The world has moved online, which also exponentially increases our ability to promote any type of product through online channels.
At ViaSport, our product is sport. We want everyone to know about it, look for it, and try it. And if ViaSport Productions is successful in building an increased awareness and recognition of the opportunities that exist, I believe we can support a drastic shift on the Richter scale in sport participation at all ages and skill levels, making B.C. the most active, participatory region in the country.
Celebrating diversity in sport: One size doesn’t fit all
Finding your place in sport doesn’t mean you have to strive to become an Olympian or Paralympian (although I do think it’s a great personal goal!). Along with our partners at more than 70 provincial sport organizations across the province who deliver diverse programming everyday, ViaSport is here to help connect British Columbians to the array of recreational, competitive, and possibly even professional opportunities in sport that suit individual lifestyles.
A major goal for ViaSport Productions is to ensure that event coverage represents the diversity of sport in B.C. We are committed to broadcasting a range of competition levels, sports (there are more than 60!), abilities, and age levels to show a true depiction of B.C.’s colourful sport landscape.
I know there are many 11-year-olds out there who have the same curiosity for sport as I did back in my Winnipeg days, but they’re not sure how to get started. ViaSport is here to provide the inspiration and confidence to take that first step in trying something new. I can speak from experience--it’s often that first step that can last a lifetime.
Learn more about ViaSport Productions
ViaSport currently grants live-streaming services to partners at provincial sport organizations by application. For more information on the program or to view upcoming events, visit www.viasport.ca/viasport-productions
Editor’s Note: ViaSport is one of many creative models for empowering Canadians to make healthy choices and address major health concerns. Cathy Priestner Allinger, Olympian and CEO of ViaSport, is a Thought Leader of The Play Exchange challenge. Join the challenge and enter your idea to make Canadians healthier and more active!
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