Sport & Rec: Expanding Access in Beginner Programs


Sport & Rec: Expanding Access in Beginner Programs

In 2022 to 2023, the Innovation Hub partnered with Sport & Rec and found that movement acts as an opportunity for discovery, human connection, and creates an equalizing space for students. We also learned that students experience barriers when deciding to pursue movement at the university, and the report addressed some of the specific challenges that they face, particularly when getting started.

Thus, in 2023-2024, we focused on students participating in beginner programs to better understand factors influencing participation and access. Our research sought to truly understand the mindset of students through each stage of participation in a new activity. We hope that the insights from this research can inspire new ways for Sport & Rec spaces and programs to be equitable, diverse, and inclusive.

Fall/Winter 2023 - 2024

How Can Sport & Rec Beginner Programs Be More Accessible?

Sport & Rec operates as a division of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) at the University of Toronto, providing sport and physical activity programs for students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. Sport & Rec is committed to designing spaces and programs that consider a diverse set of student needs, with a particular interest in the needs of students with disabilities and those from equity-deserving populations. The project focused on experiences of students participating in beginner programs to better understand the factors influencing participation.

Sport & Rec team standing outside and smiling


In the fall of 2023, we shared findings from the March 2023 report with 52 students, staff, and faculty to listen to their reactions to the presented design principles. We engaged participants in ideation activities to hear their visions for making Sport & Rec more accessible, inclusive, and tailored to their needs. In winter of 2024, we turned our focus to direct engagement in beginner programs at Sport & Rec. Our Innovation Hub team members participated in 9 Sport & Rec beginner programs and recorded their experiences through an in-depth journal activity. Additionally, we interviewed 5 students who had recently attended a beginner program or an equity-focused program to learn more about their experiences.


When students engage in movement, they find
freedom beyond the academic box

We found that students expressed several key needs to expand access at Sport & Rec. There were many shared needs and opinions voiced by the students we spoke with, such as the importance of collaborative participation with others, the need for ease of access and greater visibility of information, the need for more diverse activity offerings, and the importance of their own physical safety, security, and safety of their belongings. Students also emphasized their desire for Sport & Rec to continue to prioritize equity in programming to increase inclusion of diverse student populations. Our findings play out in four stages of engagement: Explore, Decide, Engage and Reflect.