SIMCOE, JUNE 27, 2012 – Play, live and be tobacco-free.
That’s the message those involved with Youth Unlimited’s 4-on-4 summer hockey program will be receiving throughout the season. The Norfolk-area league has implemented a tobacco-free policy to send a clear message to players, coaches and the community that they support a healthy, tobacco-free lifestyle.
The policy, which was supported with a grant from the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, bans the use of tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, by all players, spectators, coaches, officials, and organizers.
“The notion of tobacco-free sports is already in line with the values of our organization, so it made sense to make a policy,” said Dan Avey, the league’s director. “We’re trying to create a healthy, positive environment for our young players, and give everyone a chance to perform at their best, both in our league and in other activities they might be involved in later on.”
Avey noted that young athletes often model behaviour after people they look up to, including coaches, leaders, family members and older players, both on and off the ice. Youth Unlimited hopes the new tobacco-free culture created by the policy will help prevent young players from lighting up as a result of seeing some of these influential people use tobacco products.
The league also used a portion of the grant funds to purchase 30 new hockey jerseys featuring the ‘Play, Live, Be Tobacco-Free’ logo.
Youth Unlimited received support and encouragement throughout the development of the policy by the Health Unit’s youth-led volunteer group, HEAT (Health Education and Advocacy Team). The HEAT group, comprised of students from various local high schools, create activities and advocacy campaigns to educate and encourage the community, especially their peers, to lead healthy lifestyles.
HEAT will be helping Youth Unlimited launch the new policy during the league’s games at the Simcoe Rec Centre on Wednesday, July 4th. Players will have the opportunity to participate in fun tobacco-related activities and receive free hockey pucks branded with the ‘Play, Live, Be Tobacco-Free’ slogan.
Five other local youth sport organizations, along with more than 70 across the province, have implemented similar tobacco-free policies in the past two years. The members of HEAT are hoping more leagues and organizations will follow the example set by Youth Unlimited and others.
“It’s always exciting to see a league support and role-model positive healthy behaviours to children and youth, and I think it’s great that Youth Unlimited has decided to do that,” said Bailey Henwood, a youth volunteer with HEAT. “We are hoping that other local sport organizations will be motivated to adopt their own tobacco-free policy as a result.”
Sport groups interested in making their organization, league or team tobacco-free are encouraged to visit www.playlivebetobaccofree.com or call the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 ext. 3276 to learn more.
Program Coordinator, Population Health Team
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3238 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623