Coree Tull: The power of sport in building healthy, active, and engaged communities

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When I was younger, playing on sports teams was instrumental to my social development. Sports were a place for me to go and focus on the moment, and they offered me essential life skills: working with a team, personal dedication, and the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

As an adult in a new city, I didn’t play a lot of sports in Vancouver. People often talk about the social isolation here, and I certainly felt that for a time.

My first involvement in my new city of Vancouver was through organizing to protect our environment in 2003. I wanted to help communities become greener. I was incredibly fortunate to learn community building skills from Nathan Cullen during his NDP leadership bid and from the late Jack Layton, whom I worked for in 2011. The experience instilled in me an appreciation for genuine consultation, especially when working with marginalized groups.

In my free time, I began to play sports again in Vancouver, and I immediately noticed a need for inclusive, positive, safe spaces for people of all genders and ability to play sports regardless of race, socioeconomic background, or sexuality, in particular trans* members of my community. In 2011, my wife Kathryn and I joined the Out in Sports Society and started the Double Rainbow Dodgeball League. We wanted everyone in the league to be welcomed and have an equal opportunity to play and participate. Our league is for all genders and is queer and trans* positive, and it serves both experienced athletes as well as those who have never been part of a sports team.

At Double Rainbow games, people wear costumes and are encouraged to express themselves—the atmosphere is positive and lighthearted. Instead of referees or umpires, we have volunteer ambassadors who help to keep things friendly and fun, in addition to keeping score. Instead of rigid rule enforcement, people self-regulate. We are proud to operate on the honour system because we believe it says a lot about our character.

We all like to play when we can, but as adults we often forget how important play can be. Sports have great power to build communities where people can feel safe and included, while being healthy and active. It’s still up to all of us to get out there and participate, but there is more we can do to make that first step easier.

In April, the park board passed the trans and gender variant working group's 77 recommendations to actively create safe spaces in Vancouver parks for people of all genders. These new recommendations offer a meaningful opportunity to amplify the efforts of individuals and groups working to provide supportive space for all people to enjoy the great facilities and programs our city has to offer.

I’m running for the park board to continue this work and to ensure we move forward with creating safe, positive spaces for all people—the young, the elderly, new immigrants, persons living with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. We can minimize barriers for everyone by listening to and working with people from diverse communities, as well as by supporting local projects and leaders.

I look forward to putting my practical skills to use by making tangible improvements in field conditions and booking process, while also leveraging my organizing experience to make sure that we’re making transparent decisions, together. I recognize the power of sport and the positive impact it can have in building and maintaining healthy, active, and engaged communities, and I am excited to bring these values with me to the Vancouver park board.

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