Olympic swimmer tells Craigflower students about ‘physical literacy’

Students at Craigflower Elementary School heard about “physical literacy” on Monday from an expert source — two-time Olympic swimmer Ryan Cochrane.

“It’s about playing with friends, it’s about finding what you like,” said the 25-year-old Victoria resident. “Maybe it’s not swimming. Maybe it’s running. Maybe it’s trying a new thing you never tried before.”

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Cochrane’s visit marked a funding announcement that ensures a successful physical-literacy program at the school will continue for at least another 2 1/2 years, courtesy of $100,000 in donations — $50,000 each from the Rotary Club of Victoria and the Victoria Foundation. The program has been a major success in its first several months, said Craigflower principal Lynne Moorehouse.

Craigflower can’t afford a physical-education specialist on staff, so the program fills an important role, Moorehouse said. The program, which focuses on such things as agility, co-ordination and balance, is being delivered by the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence, or PISE, for the school’s 136 students in kindergarten to Grade 5.

Victoria Foundation CEO Sandra Richardson said physical literacy helps with all aspects of life.

“Beyond the obvious physical skills gained, it lays the groundwork for young children to build confidence in their physical abilities and support lifelong health and well-being.”

Moorehouse said the physical-literacy initiative helps round out students’ school experience and that PISE’s involvement at the school has already been part of improved reading performances. She said the number of students reading at or above their grade level has gone from 28 per cent to 71 per cent over the past three years.

Cochrane told the students that he got into swimming 20 years ago, enjoyed it and stayed with it. He said he learned the value of sport and of being active along the way.`

“If you can learn things in sports, you can learn to play fair when maybe somebody else isn’t and learn to have fun even when you’re not winning,” Cochrane said. “Having fun isn’t always winning. Having fun is just being able to be outside, be active, have fun with your friends.”

PISE CEO Robert Bettauer said the facility works with world-class athletes and conducts research that can benefit the wider community. Extolling the virtues of physical literacy is part of that process, he said.

The money from the Rotary Club of Victoria was collected through generous support from the public, president-elect Ali Edgell said.

Craigflower Elementary is among several beneficiaries of $250,000 in club contributions during its centennial year in 2013.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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