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Canadian Olympians Help Students Get Mentally Fit

KITCHENER, ON – Today, a gymnasium full of students at Doon Public School in Kitchener, ON learned how to flex their mental muscles like an Olympic athlete as the Canadian Olympic Committee launched the latest classroom module of its Canadian Olympic Schools Program called Give Your Everything – Be A Champion For Life. The program is centred around the idea of ‘Mental Fitness’ and today’s release of the free-of-charge educational module on is an intentional link to Canadian Olympic Team Premier National Partner Bell Canada’s leading-edge mental health initiative Bell Let’s Talk Day, an annual awareness day that takes place across Canada on February 12th.

“Just as it is important to discuss mental health challenges when they occur, we must also create conditions that foster mental fitness in our children and youth, so they can live stronger, happier and more fulfilling lives,” said Canadian Olympic Committee President Marcel Aubut. “Mental fitness is a proactive approach and that’s very much what the new education module and today’s event have been about.”

Treated to the wisdom and energy of the quadruple-threat of Olympians Brian Price (Rowing), Mary Spencer (Boxing), Isabelle Charest (Short Track Speed Skating) and Mark Oldershaw (Canoeing), as well as internationally renowned sport psychologist from the University of Ottawa, Dr. Terry Orlick (PhD)., Kitchener students were the first in the country to experience components of the new program. They got the chance to learn from some of the best athletes in the world about the importance of a positive attitude in overcoming challenges, setting goals, having a connected focus and living happy, fulfilled lives.

“I feel really privileged to be here today helping teach these children and youth the crucial lesson that no matter what you come up against in life, you’re going to deal with it more effectively if you approach it with the right attitude and connected focus,” said Brian Price, two-time Olympic medallist in Rowing, and survivor of childhood leukemia. “Achieving and keeping that kind of mental fitness takes practise, patience and support, just like achieving physical fitness does.”

“One of the first things my coach Charlie asked me when I met him was whether I wanted to be a good boxer or whether I wanted to be a champion,” said three-time  world champion and Olympian Mary Spencer. “I told him I wanted to be a champion and every moment since then has been a conscious choice to believe in myself and what I could do. It’s not easy and I don’t always get what I want at the time that I want it, but as long as I try my best and learn something, I can’t fail. None of us can.”

“When I was skating competitively, I often had to work really hard to motivate myself and the reason I was able to do that was because I had a great mentor to help me,” said three time Olympic medallist in short track Speed Skating, Isabelle Charest. “It’s important for everyone to know that there’s always someone to talk to, whether it’s a parent, teacher, friend or coach. None of us are alone and it’s always OK to ask for help.”

“Every single Olympian got to where they did because they worked really hard on their thoughts and beliefs, developing a healthy mind as well as a healthy body,” said Mark Oldershaw, Olympic bronze medallist in Canoeing and the fifth member of his family to participate in an Olympic Games. “We’ve all been scared or worried and felt those butterflies in our stomach, or felt discouraged at some point. The great thing about practising your mental fitness is learning by heart that every single one of us is a unique person. For me, that made a huge difference to achieving my dreams and happiness, both on and off the water.”

“We’re very excited about what this classroom module can mean for Canadian students, both now and as they move through adolescence and on into adulthood,” said internationally renowned sport and life enhancement leader from the University of Ottawa, Dr. Terry Orlick (PhD). “All of us will learn, live and perform better, whether we’re high performance athletes, students or school-aged children by learning and practicing these positive life enhancement skills. We will all feel better, contribute more, reduce unnecessary stress and add joy to our lives by learning these positive mental fitness skills. Now is the time to begin this life enhancement initiative.”

Combining inspiring stories about Canadian Olympians with interactive learning activities, this free, bilingual classroom resource is a new tool for educators to engage their students in fostering their personal mental fitness. The module, which can be easily tailored for Grades 2 through 12, and modified for Kindergarten and Grade 1 students, has been created in consultation with Dr. Orlick and Canadian educational experts from the Heath and Education Research Group from the University of New Brunswick, are available at no charge at olympicschool.ca.

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Canadian Olympic Committee Media Office:      
Jane Almeida, Manager, Media Relations
Tel: 416-324-4120 / Cell: 416-540-1788
Email: jalmeida@olympic.ca

Dimitri Soudas, Executive Director, Communications
Tel: 416-324-4136 / Cell: 289-388-6419
Email: dsoudas@olympic.ca

Backgrounder

Mental Fitness
Research suggests that we, as human beings, experience between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. We even think while we sleep. Research also shows that on average, 70% of these thoughts are negative. (Cole, K, 2011). This can equal up to 35,000 to 49,000 negative thoughts per day.
Allowing one’s self to be swept up in negative thoughts can lead to a consistent pattern of negativity and self-deprecation. This pattern can contribute to significant mental health issues if unchecked. But, we have the ability to challenge these thoughts and slowly change them to positive thoughts. This takes time and determination, but it is doable when we practise positive living skills.

February 12th in Canada is Bell Let’s Talk Day, an initiative by Canadian Olympic Team Premier National Partner Bell Canada. The program both raises awareness around mental health, and also raises money for mental health across the country.
In addition to addressing mental health issues as they arise, humans can also take preventative measures to strengthen positive mental health or mental fitness before significant challenges occur. Just as keeping our bodies healthy requires a regular program of healthy eating and physical exercise, keeping our minds healthy requires a regular program of healthy thoughts and positive choices. That’s where mental fitness comes in.

Mental fitness has been defined as the state of psychological well-being derived from our thoughts and emotions, and is based on the need to be valued or appreciated for our strengths and positive qualities (competence), the need to be included or belong (relatedness) and the freedom to make healthy choices (autonomy). (Health and Education Research Group, 2007; Deci and Ryan, 2007).

Recognizing the crucial role of psychological wellness and mental fitness on the Canadian population, the Canadian Olympic School Program’s new classroom module: Give your Everything- Be a Champion for Life is specifically designed to help build and strengthen these important life skills into the everyday lives of Canadian children and youth.

The new classroom module is a unique classroom resource designed to help children and youth feel accepted, valued and appreciated by others and to help others feel the same values. It was created by educational and sport psychology experts to help participants choose to make good, positive choices and to act on those positive life enhancing choices every day.

Once the conditions have been created to teach and nurture these positive living and learning skills, individuals feel engaged empowered and supported in setting and achieving meaningful learning and performance goals. By sharing Olympians’ stories of their journey, children and youth can hear about dealing with and overcoming challenges and adversity.

Canadian Olympic Schools Program (25 years)
The Canadian Olympic School Program (COSP) has operated since 1987, and provides teachers and students across Canada with free-of-charge Olympic-themed classroom and school resources.
The primary objectives of COSP include:

•         Promoting the Olympic values and inspire the application of these values in the lives of Canadian teachers and students daily;
•         Increasing awareness of the Canadian Olympic Team amongst teachers and students nationwide (sharing stories of the Canadian Olympians journey);
•         Engaging Canadians in the Olympic Movement.

Educators can access and utilize COSP materials through www.olympicschool.ca.

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Jane Almeida
Manager, Media Relations
Tel: 416-324-4120 / Cell: 416-540-1788
Email: jalmeida@olympic.ca

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