A Club Leader Call to Action.

If you have one of these:

 then you need one of these:

A key component of the Canada Soccer National Youth License is an inclusive and accessible soccer organization. Overall the License requires clubs to demonstrate good Governance, Administration, Infrastructure and Technical components, and within that Administration section is a recommendation to offer ‘enhanced community engagement plans, capabilities and practices’. When we drill down further into the criteria the License is looking for organizations to;

  1. Provides an accessible, inclusive, and welcoming soccer environment
  2. Provides programming that targets underrepresented groups as outlined in the Canada Soccer Guide to Accessibility and Inclusion
  3. Have programs, partnerships, and/or other mechanisms to reduce barriers to participation
  4. Have promotional materials and program images using inclusive language and image.

This covers many under-represented groups but one thing we can all agree on is that disability is something that will most likely catch up with all of us at some point in time. According to Stats Canada 16% (5.3 million) of the Canadian population identifies as having a disability, rising from a low of 6.9% in Nunavut to a high of 18.8% in Nova Scotia. As part of the 2012 Stats Can study a global severity score was developed taking into account the number of disability types, the level of difficulty, and the frequency of the activity limitation. To make the severity score easier to use, four severity classes were established: mild, moderate, severe, and very severe. Of the 3.8 million Canadians aged 15 years or older who reported a disability, 32% were classified as having a mild disability; 20%, a moderate disability; 23%, a severe disability; and 26%, a very severe disability. The prevalence of severity did not differ significantly between men and women.

There are three main ways that a disability may present itself and are defined by the Ontario Humans Rights Commission as;

  1. Being born with a disability (hereditary)
  2. Being involved in an accident that may permanently or temporarily limit our functions (acquired)
  3. Being developed over time, which may include but not limited to aging.

These statistics paint a pretty clear picture for anyone in doubt about the proportion of people with a disability in our communities. So take a look around your club and ask yourself, do we reflect our community?

Here’s where the crux of the conversation needs to happen at Board level. As an organization, when you reflect on your philosophy, values, direction – what do you see? Are you there to serve your community or solely focused on finding the next Atiba or Jessie?

For a long time we had been convinced that most accessible soccer programs started because;

  1. A parent was upset that a program didn’t exist within the club for their child, and they were encouraged/forced to make it happen or
  2. A special needs professional, maybe a teacher by day, wanted to share their knowledge and passion with their local club and made it happen or
  3. A coach or board member realised this was essential to their club offerings and made it happen.

What we learned from the first Accessible Soccer Forum on May 28th was that Board Members had significant influence over the creation of these programs. They knew how the organization operated, where the spare field time was, potential budget implications, sponsor interest and a volunteer base. From Weyburn, Saskatchewan to Fergus, Ontario it had been board members that made it happen.

Our Call to Action is for you, the reader, to get this item on your next board meeting agenda and consider this simple 3 step process:

  1.  Have a discussion about your organization and what it means to be a grassroots club.

Definition of Grassroots sport:

Grassroots sport is physical leisure activity, organised and non-organised, practised regularly at non-professional level for health, educational or social purposes.

European Commission

Grassroots football is football for all. Complicated tactics are not appropriate.


Definition of Community sport:

The community is the place everyone has their first experience with physical activity and sport. CS4L provides the framework to ensure these experiences are positive and set the stage for a lifelong relationship with physical activity. A successful CS4L Community develops physical literacy, creates the environment for sport excellence and provides opportunities for its citizens to be active for life.

Canadian Sport 4 Life

2. Take a look at the Canada Soccer Guide to Accessibility and Inclusion. This will provide a broad range of information about accessibility and inclusion in all its forms. Maybe on reflection your organization is making progress and has something to shout about or maybe you’ve realised there are gaps or blind spots that you hadn’t appreciated until now.

3. Ask yourself ‘What is holding us back?’ Is it a gap in technical knowledge and a perceived shortage of qualified coaches? Is it a limited amount of time for your technical staff to make it happen? Are the concerns around; a lack of resources whether it’s volunteers or field time; an assumption that expensive specialist equipment will be needed; concerns over registration and risk management?

This is where Soccability Canada can help. Our experience can assist you in mapping out your accessible soccer program from the board room discussion (we only expect this to take one discussion!) through to program planning and then on to field delivery.

Reach out to us (inquiries@soccability.ca) and we will work with you to make it happen!


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