Physical Safety in Intramurals
The Ontario Physical Activity Safety Standards in Education (OPASSE) represent the minimum (minimum does not refer to minimal safety standards but to the minimum requirements for safety standards that must be followed in school-based physical activities) standard for management practice for school boards in Ontario for curricular, intramural activities and interschool sports. OPASSE focuses the attention of teachers, intramural supervisors and coaches on safe practices in order to minimize the element of risk.
To find all the safety information for intramural activities, visit the Ontario Physical Activity Safety Standards in Education. The following information highlights some of the key safety considerations necessary before getting started.
Sample forms are available to provide the parent(s)/guardian(s) with information about the intramural activities in which their child may choose to participate and to acquire parent/guardian consent for their child’s participation in intramural activities. These forms include:
This sample form includes permission for their child to participate in the Intramural Program and the acknowledgment of the elements of risk (while this option does not include the student’s medical information, schools must have a process in place for gathering and communicating medical information of participants before activity).
This sample form includes permission for their child to participate in the Intramural Program, the acknowledgement of the elements of risk, and the appropriate student medical information from their parent(s)/guardian(s).
Safety Activity Pages
In addition to the safety instructions located on each of the intramural activities, it is also important to identify, review, and follow the activity page(s) for the planned intramural activities. Activity pages are found on the Ontario Physical Activity Safety Standards in Education (OPASSE) website. Intramural organizers can begin by selecting Elementary or Secondary, then search for their activity, and select intramurals. The following tips can support locating the activity page for different types of intramural activities:
- when planning an activity already in OPASSE, use the safety standards listed on the activity page for the specific activity being planned (e.g., if planning Ultimate Disc, use the Ultimate Disc activity page);
- when planning an activity that resembles an activity in OPASSE, use the safety standards listed on the activity page for the activity it most resembles (e.g., if planning 3-on-3 basketball, use the Basketball activity page); and,
- when planning to hold an Open Gym with different activities, use the Drop-In Self-Directed Physical Activities in the Tools and Resource Section.
Note: If the intramural activity being planned is not in OPASSE and does not resemble an activity in OPASSE, use the Sample Checklist to Identify and Minimize risk for Activities not Included in OPASSE in the Tools and Resources section.
The Supervision section on each OPASSE activity page identifies the type(s) of supervision required. The Definitions section within OPASSE helps to clarify what each type of supervision includes. The type(s) of supervision takes into consideration the risk level of the activity, the type of equipment used, the participants’ skill level, the participants’ maturity level, and the environmental considerations.
If additional support is needed in establishing safety standards for an intramural program, consider consulting colleagues within the school who run physical activity programs and the school administration. Ask Ophea can be used for further information.
Emotional Safety in Intramurals
Emotional safety in an intramural program refers to the creation of an environment where students feel secure, accepted, and supported when taking part in physical activities, sports, or movement. Prioritizing emotional safety can create a sense of inclusion and belonging, contributing to the overall well-being and enjoyment of all involved. When students feel emotionally supported, they are more likely to take healthy risks, form positive relationships, and fully engage in programming.
When designing an intramural program, the SAFER acronym offers some key considerations for promoting emotional safety. The use of the term “safer” versus “safe” acknowledges that safety is a relative concept and that individuals have different needs and experiences when it comes to feeling secure and supported. An emotionally SAFER environment prioritizes:
Support - Establish a support system that provides allyship, guidance, encouragement, and resources so that all students feel valued and empowered in programming. This includes mental health resources, peer networks, inclusive policies, and training.
Access - Ensure equitable access to participation by removing barriers and offering a wide range of inclusive activities that cater to diverse interests, abilities, and cultural backgrounds.
Fun - Infuse fun into activities through creative game formats, team-building, and friendly competitions. Celebrate achievements, teamwork, and fair play.
Empowerment - Involve students in planning, allowing them to choose activities, games and sports that resonate with their interests and identities. Make student leadership and student-led activities the goal, with the appropriate scaffolding of support from adults.
Relationships - Cultivate positive and trusting relationships where students feel connected, supported, and safe to explore new activities and embrace healthy risks.
Comfort Zones and Risk Taking
Cultivating emotional safety and personal growth in intramurals involves guiding students to discover and explore their individual comfort zones and empowering them to take healthy risks. Tips for facilitating this process include:
- Comfort Zone Exploration: Initiate open discussions about comfort zones, guiding students to reflect on their strengths and areas where they may encounter perceived challenges or fears. Avoid imposing limitations and instead focus on supporting a sense of adventure and confidence in exploring their zones.
- Gradual Exposure: Gradually introduce activities that encourage students to stretch the edges of their comfort zones. Start with small challenges and progressively increase difficulty or risk levels to build confidence and resilience.
- Empower Participants with Choice: Offer a variety of activities with various levels of challenges, allowing participants to make choices based on their comfort zones. This approach grants students control over their level of engagement and respects their individual preferences and boundaries.
- Assess Hesitation: Identify if students are displaying hesitation (verbally or nonverbally) during participation and assess the underlying reasons. If safety is a concern, guide the student towards a different skill or permit them to choose a challenge within their comfort zone, including the choice to not participate.
- Supportive Group Environment: Establish a positive and empathetic atmosphere, promoting teamwork and cooperation among students. Acknowledge potential peer pressure to surpass comfort zones and emphasize the importance of respecting individual boundaries. Empower students to make decisions based on their preferences, encouraging exploration at their own pace.
- Embrace Failure for Growth: Encourage a culture where failure is not feared but rather embraced as a natural part of growth. Create an environment where participants can share their mistakes and setbacks with a light-hearted approach to help reduce the stigma around failure and allow individuals to learn from their missteps while maintaining a positive outlook.
- Lead by Example: Serve as a positive role model by actively participating in activities, embracing healthy risks, and modeling the capacity to find humor in one's own mistakes.
By prioritizing these strategies, educators can create an environment where students develop resilience, self-confidence, and a willingness to explore new possibilities.