London Sports Council Looks To 2020 And Beyond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

As we usher in a new year, local sports community members will seek guidance, funding and recognition during the 2020 season. One of the key London organizations providing education, money and acknowledgement is the London Sports Council (LSC), which today plays a much different role than during its charter year in 1999.

It’s fair to say that most Londoners are not even aware of LSC’s role, and that many Londoners don’t even know LSC exists.

Part of that problem stems from the fact the council is “almost entirely volunteer run,” according to Bill Smith, a council member since 2001 and LSC executive director since late-2015. A well-known basketball official and sports management professional, Smith assumed his current post following the death of previous executive director Jim Allen.

Every organization evolves, and for the LSC that evolution has been a radical one. Yet the council’s mandate, “Sport for all,” remains the same and is even embedded in its logo.

“Originally, the London Sports Council connected with all of the minor sports groups in order to receive feedback on the state of facilities, what minor sports groups were seeking, information on rising costs and how they promoted themselves,” Smith explained.

“But that was difficult because of the nature of minor sports. It’s very transient. If your kid is playing Devilettes hockey, for example, then you might be a board member or help with coaching – as long as your kids are involved. But as soon their kids graduate or are disinterested in sports, then parents leave, too,” Smith said.

Another intent of LSC’s founding was to assist minor sports with the development of fundraising ideas and grant writing. But Smith said because of the aforementioned challenges, those efforts, too, are no longer part of the council’s day-to-day duties.

“We used to offer sport link lunches to groups, teams, administers, and the hotels and restaurants who had vested interests when we hosted events. They were community-spirited meetings, including seminars on concussions, and how to deal with unruly parents, as well as education on registration processes. But over time, we did evolve,” Smith explained.

Today, LSC’s role is three-fold: overseeing the 2002-founded London Sports Hall of Fame, which stages its annual induction ceremony at Western Fair District (home of the LSC); since 2004, administering the London chapter of KidSport Canada; and staging the city’s sixth annual  volunteer recognition ceremony in April.

London Sports Council executive director Bill Smith

The current LSC board includes chair Don Pollock; Smith, who co-chairs KidSport London and volunteer recognition; City of London representative Mike Vandertuin, recreation supervisor with London’s parks and recreation division and co-chair of LSC’s volunteer recognition; Western Fair District representative Reg Ash; Bill Merrylees, chair of the seventh annual Jim Allen KidSport Golf Tournament slated for June 10 at The Oaks Golf and Country Club; and hall of fame chair Tom Dalby.

National not-for-profit group KidSport Canada (est. 1993), through its grants and sport introduction programs, has helped more than 750,000 Canadian children aged 18 and under participate in sports on playgrounds, pitches, fields and diamonds from coast to coast.

The KidSport London chapter is one of 166 across Canada. It has adopted the national mission statement that “no kid should be left on the sidelines, and all should be given the opportunity to experience the positive benefits of organized sports.”

Smith said from 2015 through May 2019, KidSport London has assisted 1,075 kids through $236,000 in grants. He said 100 per cent of the chapter’s fundraising efforts goes directly to families who, in many cases, cannot even afford to purchase new clothing.

“The London Sports Council is not funded, nor under the City of London umbrella,” he explained. “We are a self-run organization with past funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, but we haven’t received Trillium grants in at least 10 years. We receive some funding from KidSport Canada, and from London Community Foundation donors, and also from people who are interested in our program.”

One year ago, KidSport London launched its Champion an Athlete initiative. The organization is looking for 100 donations of $1,000 to secure a $100,000 fund for distributing grants of $250 per child.

A staple of KidSport London fundraising is the annual Jim Allen golf tournament. Allen, who died in 2014, was a well-known teacher, coach, athlete and mentor.

With Vandertuin providing the link to local sports, LSC’s volunteer recognition program asks minor sports groups to submit names of deserving award recipients – association directors, coaches or even parents who shuttle their kids to rinks while many of us have yet to have our first cup of coffee in the morning – who will all be honoured during the annual celebration.

As the council has evolved, other groups, including Sport Tourism London, have stepped up the plate to assist the local sports community. Tourism London, for example, recently held its sixth annual London Community Sport Organizations meeting. Administrators with London’s hundreds of sports groups had an opportunity to meet one-on-one with officials from Sport Tourism London, and from parks and recreation officials, in order to exchange ideas and opportunities beneficial to everyone involved.

A glass-half-empty approach points to the fact LSC doesn’t use social media to its benefit, and brings light to the fact the council no longer acts as a parent organization of Accessible Sports London. But Smith said better promotions are in the works, as is a continuation of a more organic connection with athletes of all abilities.

London is growing at an unprecedented rate, and so, too, are the needs of the local sports and recreation community. And that means the London Sports Council will have bigger shoes to fill in 2020 and beyond.

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Award-winning writer Jeffrey Reed, 58, has covered sports in London and Southwestern Ontario since 1980. He is publisher and editor of LondonOntarioSports.com (est. 2015) and LondonOntarioGolf.com (est. 2004). Contact him at jeff@londonontariosports.com.

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office https://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com. Sports journalist since 1980.

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