On reflection this was written well before the COVID-19 outbreak hit us hard and so, I’ve revised from the original message sent to 16 accessible soccer club leaders in early March. Since then Ontario Soccer took a strong, early stance by suspending all soccer as of March 12th.
At times like this we’re looking for hope, light at the end of the tunnel. I sincerely hope this post can provide a little something.
The post is a collection of thoughts and action items following the Ontario Soccer Summit, held February 20-22 in Hamilton, ON. Forgive me as I know not everyone was there but there were so many positive comments and experiences coming out of the weekend that I wanted to try and pull them together. Two things that are important to note:
- We continue to keep introducing and developing accessible programs, so let’s shout about it with great social media content and quality program details. By doing this, we’ll show other clubs that this is an established soccer program they must offer. I encourage us all to continue sharing accessible soccer tweets or posts about your programs and they MUST include tagging Ontario Soccer and Canada Soccer.
- Like so many of you, this part of my life is done outside of the usual 9-5. I encourage you to contact me using my personal email address or @mattgreenwood74 handle.
So, where to begin?
Here’s a summary of things I think we should have on the radar and I encourage you to share with your groups.
Soccer Summit sessions: This year was the first time Ontario Soccer offered a classroom and field session for accessible soccer. Both seemed to be well received and what was most impactful were the conversations following those sessions with two or three Clubs wanting to either expand on their current accessible program or to start something brand new. I think what we all find is that our Club Boards know these are really important programs to have and great additions to our club but there’s often a hurdle when they want to expand it or even know where to start. That’s where, as a group, we can help each other out with evidence and case studies. Jon Morgan’s example from Cambridge Youth Soccer and their ACES program was a great example of one person who believed in the concept, took it back to his Club Board and after getting a bit of support from another Club to help educate his own Board the ACES have taken off!
Academy Soccer Coach: This is Ontario Soccer’s coach education tool endorsed by them and they have a license to create branding session plans within the system. About 2 years ago I met with the staff from ASC because they wanted to develop a para-soccer platform so that power-chair, amputee or even visually impaired players could identify with the players on the session plan. Any online coaching tool up until that point had only able bodied players shown in graphics. This is the first of its kind and has just been launched to the public. If your technical staff already have access to ASC then ask them for access to create your own sessions with para-soccer players. Ontario Soccer are aiming to create something similar to the Grassroots Education videos that they have on their website. This would include video content designed and edited by them and I believe this will be a really useful tool for those Clubs that don’t know what an accessible session might look like.
FEDS Festival: This year will be the 7th year of the fantastic FEDS Festival in Fergus. Clubs are more than welcome to take 3-4 older players to this event and join with other Clubs at the festival to make a complete team. The format is usually adult disability soccer playing 7v7 but it’s very open with some coaches on the field to assist and a true festival feel to it. Pat Espina who runs this event is an incredible guy and lives and breaths this event. Please reach out to Pat at FEDS for more information. If we have enough players from other Clubs, we can make some combined teams and gives these players some incredible experiences of competition.
Blind Soccer: We currently have blind soccer teams based out of Kitchener, Pickeringand Ottawa. The vision is to add another team every two year that is linked to the Ontario Parasport Games. The next games are in Mississauga in 2021 and we will be targeting a Mississauga club to take up the challenge. That being said, we’re also open to new Clubs taking up the program and with assistance from Ontario Blind Sport (OBSA) we can provide plenty of help. This can include: Team Building sessions (any age of sighted player, we’ll bring eye-shades and balls), Coach Professional Development sessions and of course, the ideal session would be an open invite to blind or visually impaired members of your community and assist in starting a team within your club programming.
National Youth License: What has become really important over the past year has been the roll-out of the Canada Soccer National Youth License and he requirement for all Clubs to demonstrate their inclusive and accessible practices. Now that could be in many forms (disability, females, LGBT, New Canadians etc.) and Canada Soccer don’t require clubs to do ‘everything’ but at least show commitment to one or two areas. With that said I hope we can encourage more of the NYL holders in Ontario to raise their game and connect with us. I will approach Canada Soccer about a message to those groups and see if they can be encouraged to connect with us.
If you want to start a program reach out to me and we can work out what the best course of action is for your Clubs needs. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Twitter.