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Overview of the Sports & Recreation Industry


Participation in sports (athletes, spectators, coaches, referees administrators)

In BC, there are over 612,000 participants in organized sports and more than 500 sport facilities throughout BC. While participation in organized sports has declined in other areas of Canada, BC reported an increase of 1% in rates of participation from 2005 to 2010.

Table: Adult Canadians regularly participating in sport by provinces, 1992, 1998, 2005, and 2010ul

More Canadians involved in amateur sport as coaches, referees, administrators, and spectators.

In addition to participation in amateur sport, Canadians are also involved in sport indirectly as coaches, referees, umpires, administrators, and spectators. This indirect involvement has increased over the years in contrast to the declining trend in sport participation. Although sport participation declined by 20% over the 1992-2010 period across Canada, adult Canadians’ indirect involvement in sport, as spectators at amateur events, almost doubled from 24% to 40% of the population. Moreover, the involvement of adult Canadians in sport as administrators, referees, and coaches remained fairly stable during that same period. In 2010, over two million Canadians, or 7% of the population, volunteered as administrators or helpers in amateur sport. This represents an increase compared to rates of involvement of the Canadian population in 1998 and 2005, where respectively 4% and 5% of adults were involved as administrators or helpers.

Source: Sport Participation 2010, Research Paper (2013)

Sport Organizations in BC

Table: Sport Organization in BC

Sources: ViaSport BC,, Sport Tourism in BC, Mountain Bike Tourism in BC

Immigrants and Sports in Canada: participation & benefits

Sports help new Canadian citizens (those who have lived in Canada for at least three years and have attained Canadian citizenship) integrate into Canadian society.

Playing Together New Citizens, Sports & Belonging’ reports that:

  • 69% of newcomers who play sports within the first 3 years believe it helps them learn about Canadian culture
  • 95% of new citizens surveyed agree that sports are an important part of Canadian culture
  • sports can teach elements of Canadian culture not learned in books or online: jargon and slang, humour, how to handle conflict, acceptable behaviours or gestures
    • new citizens quickly recognize how difficult social interactions can be without having some hockey sense. Many focus on learning something about hockey in order to fit in. They joked that you “score points” with Canadians if you learn enough to pretend like you know what you are talking about.
  • more meaningful social interactions occur in the stands and on the field than at work

The participation gap between Canadian-born and immigrants in sports is narrowing.

Established immigrants participate in sport less than recent immigrants. Canadian born immigrants coming to Canada after 1990 (29%) tend to participate regularly in sport and at the same rate as Canadian born (27%). The participation rate of newer immigrants tends to increase rather than decrease over time. Those immigrating to Canada between 2001 and 2005 (31%) are more likely to participate in sports than Canadian-born individuals. Conversely, established immigrants are less likely to engage in sport activities; only 16% of immigrants who moved to Canada before 1990 participate regularly in sport.

Sources: Playing Together New Citizens, Sports & Belonging (Institute for Canadian Citizenship)Sport Participation 2010, Research Paper, Canadian Heritage (2013)

All levels of government (federal, provincial and municipal) along with sports and recreation organizations such as the BC Recreation & Parks Association (BCRPA) focus on teaching skills for health living and fostering physical literacy –(ability to master fundamental movement and sport skills that allows individuals to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity situations).

  • provincial government of BC provides sport-related grant programs that encourage sport participation and healthy living, develop high-performance athletes, and improve of sport and recreation programs, e.g. BC Sport Participation Program, Coaching & Officiating Development Fund. For further details on BC government programs , see:
    BC Government: Sports
    BC Government: Sport Funding
  • BCRPA provides programs such as MEND for children (Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do it!) focus on developing lifelong healthy living skills for children, while ‘Choose to Move’ and ‘ActiveAge’ target inactive older adults 65 years of age and older (increases physical activity levels and strives to decrease social isolation, motivate and support the adoption of active lifestyles).

Sources:  ViaSport British Columbia, Elevating Recreation, Annual Report, 2015-16, BC RPA (BC Recreation & Parks Association)

Sport Tourism in BC

Sport tourism in British Columbia is valued at $300 million annually, and is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry.

Sport tourism can be a key to a community’s economic development both through the value of a sport as a tourism generator, and the potential to market other business and economic opportunities.

Sources: Sport Tourism (Destination BC)Destination BC: Tourism Business Essentials: Sport Tourism Guide

Occupations in the Sports & Recreation Industry

During the years 2016-2025, immigrants to BC are projected to fill 35 per cent of all additions to the labour supply in the province.

Sports & Recreation: Occupations in Demand across all BC regions:

Occupation Job openings
2016 to 2025
Athletes, NOC 5251 200
Coaches, NOC 5252 650
Sports Officials & Referees, NOC 5254 190
Program Leaders and instructors in recreation, sport and fitness**, NOC 5254
**ranked in the 100 Top Opportunity Occupations in BC

There are two BC Regions that are forecast to expand the fastest in the performing arts, spectator sports and related industries: Vancouver Island/Coast Region and Southeast Region:
Vancouver Island / Coast Region 2016-2025

Southeast BC: Thompson Okanagan & Kootenay 2016-2025

Source: British Columbia 2025 Labour Market Outlook

Employment Outlook

For the period, 2014-2024, the largest employment growth in the sports and recreation industry will be for Program leaders and instructors in recreation, sport and fitness (NOC 5254). BC is forecast to have 1.1% expected annual demand growth rate with 3,480 Job openings.

Program Leaders & Instructors in Recreation, Sport & Fitness NOC 5254 Employment Growth 2014-2024

Other careers in sports and recreation industry follow with lower growth for the period 2014-2024:

Coaches: 600 job openings, 1.1% expected annual demand growth rate

Athletes: 160 job openings, 2.0% expected annual demand growth rate

Sports officials & referees: 140 job openings, 1.6% Expected annual demand growth rate

Sources: WorkBC Career Profiles:  Athletes, Coaches, Officials & Referees, Program leaders & instructors in recreation, sport & fitness

Finding Jobs in the Sports & Recreation Industry

Online Job Postings

  • SportBC
    postings with SportBC, and SportBC member sports organizations

Creating a List of Potential Employers

You can use directories to produce lists of employers in the sports, recreation and fitness industries in British Columbia. Contact them directly to find out if they’re hiring.

  • HealthLocal
    try selecting one or all of these categories: Fitness – Classes. Fitness – Equipment, or Fitness – Gyms & Clubs. Then select ‘British Columbia’ and your town/city
  • IdeaFit
    select either ‘Fitness Professionals’ OR ‘Health Clubs/Studios’, then enter your town/city and type of fitness (e.g. yoga, pilates)
  • CivicInfoBC
    provides contact information for municipalities throughout BC. Try linking to your town/city then look for their Parks & Recreation Department – most hire fitness professionals to lead programs

Additional Resources

Still looking for more information? Try looking at the following resources:

  • ViaSport British Columbia
    nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness, opportunity and participation in sport across BC; members include sports organizations
  • HelloBC: Recreation Sports in BC
    lists a wide variety of recreation sports and their sponsoring organizations in BC (including skiing, surfing, bicycling, mountain biking, dragon boats, adventure races)
  • CanFitPro
    provides certification for wide variety of fitness instructors (e.g. fitness kickboxing, active aging, pre & post natal)