We launched…

In the midst of a pandemic, and knowing people needed to feel connected, we launched Soccability Canada.

Seeing a demand for our expertise in the soccer community, we launched Soccability Canada. 

Knowing that more people need to hear about sport for development, we launched Soccability Canada.

Watching other countries forge ahead in inclusive & accessible forms of the game, we launched Soccability Canada.

A little over 12 months ago, November 28th 2019 to be precise, we launched Soccability Canada.

The point is that you have to start. Since 2010 we’ve talked with clubs about starting accessible and inclusive programs, most of those conversations lead to a program starting and more people enjoying the beautiful game.

The key is not us; we provide the guidance, the experience the know-how. The key is dedicated, passionate, supported volunteers in Clubs across Canada that saw a need in their community and were empowered to ‘make it happen’. Board support isn’t a mandatory requirement for program longevity but for real success it helps that they endorse it and enable it to evolve.

But, where to start? This question is two-fold.

The first issue is that these incredible club people feel isolated. They started a program for people in their community with a disability. They focused on the soccer because they know how it personally makes them feel and they want to share that love with others. I think we can all relate to that, even if our passion isn’t soccer but tennis, or running or reading. The fact is, as humans we want to share and grow when we find something we believe in. At the grassroots level of our soccer structure in Canada we look for support and often find success in disability organizations around us, from the CNIB to Special Olympics, CP groups and Autism organizations. These entities have a mailing list full of people that we’d like to speak to, and introduce to soccer. Some times reaching out to the organizations takes us out of our comfort zone because these groups are experts in their field, they know how to keep their community safe and they may have war stories of past sport programs that left them with a bad experience.

Coach education is part of the solution – but let’s recognise that we’re not there yet. There are glimmers of hope, look out for some exciting developments from Canada Soccer in 2022.

Five coaches are sat around a flip chart page, smiling as they discuss their answers.

Without coach education our inclusive champions find themselves asking a lot of questions, they’re learning on the fly, they’re solving problems for themselves and secretly hoping that this isn’t going to come back and bite them. They overcome many, many hurdles in an effort to convince the local disability organization that soccer is the right choice for their clients. We know how good the sport is for physical and mental health, but have you ever tried selling that to someone who’s scared to try it, been deterred from sport in the past or never given the chance to experience it in school?

The second issue is the perceived barriers that stand in their way which amount to attitudinal barriers. Again, we can come back to coach education to remove some of those barriers but even more importantly for us are the policies, procedures and bureaucracy that stand in our way. Historically these were created for the purpose of risk management and to nullify the ‘what if’ situations. The fact is, in the context of disability soccer they are often antiquated. They are a snapshot of where the game used to be 20 years ago in Europe, or 30 years ago in some part of South America. Our risk averse culture would rather stop a child with a disability participating because of the ‘what if’ moment, when a human rights claim for discrimination is arguably a much greater risk to the club. 

Take the example of Keira from last week. A parent and club looking for support to ensure their enthusiastic player could get back on the field after moving to a new province. There were roadblocks because her running blade was seen as a risk. They had pushed for answers and few were positive ones but thankfully, through the work of John Clubb at Alberta Soccer (and a Soccability Canada Champion) they found a solution.

Understand that athletes with a disability aren’t looking to make a club volunteer feel awkward or uncomfortable. They’re not there to be difficult and ‘stir up trouble’, that’s simply a bi-product of a system that limits inclusion and accessibility. Rather than soccer leaders (technical, governance or administration being empowered to say ‘let’s make this work, what can we do?’ the default response can be ‘we don’t have that sort of program, we wouldn’t know how to start’. The end result is one more player not getting onto the soccer field and a club leader feeling uneasy about their lack of inclusion.

For the clubs across Canada that are delivering inclusive programs in their community (19 in Ontario, 10 in British Columbia, 2 in Alberta, 1 in Saskatchewan and 18 in Quebec), you are to be applauded for that growth mindset. These clubs exemplify a need to ask ‘Why?’. They want to learn, they want to be grow, and they want to do better by their membership. The fixed mindset won’t work beyond the parameters laid out in front of them, allowing attitudinal barriers to continue to limit members of society that should be offered the same opportunity.

‘Sorry, we don’t have a program for xyz disability’ is the wrong response. I heard that response ten years ago in Ontario and it still persists today.

‘We’re going to start with you in this program and see how you get on. If we need to make adjustments along the way let’s do that’ is a much better response and could easily lead to new program growth over time.

So, the point of this blog is this. A growing number of clubs and leaders need to be running an inclusive program, whether they know it right now or not, (whether they like it or not too!). The barriers can be overcome and the development of coach education and program development will continue to grow.

Your first question should be ‘Why?’. Why did I get into this sport? Why does my club exist? Why would I limit the ability for others to share this beautiful game? Why, why, why.

So let Soccability Canada help you find the answers to those questions. As a group of passionate, experienced soccer development professionals we are here to help through;

  • Program Development
  • Coach Development
  • Policy Guidance and advocacy
  • Competition alignment
  • Grant writing

Reach out at: inquiries@soccability.ca

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