In June, 2021 we shared with you a ‘Call To Action’ which we focused on the role and expectations of Canada Soccer National Youth License clubs. As a brief reminder it called on club leaders (board and staff) to put their stake in the ground and start building an accessible soccer program. Access and inclusion are an integral part of the National Youth License criteria and only a small percentage of clubs in this program currently offer a disability football program. After highlighting the national statistics for disability and the common barriers described by clubs that haven’t started a program we then provided some solutions and offered our services to get clubs across Canada started.
With the pandemic appearing to ‘ease’ and winter safely in the rear view mirror this is your second call to action. Not just for National Youth License clubs but any club that is missing this program from their community offerings.
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau recently addressed media as part of a NATO address in Berlin regarding Ukraine, and a quote he used resonated with us. It was from German novelist Thomas Mann and described how democracy is “Built on respect for the infinite dignity of each individual”. It’s fair to assume Mann’s own personal life was very much at the core of this message but such a simple sentence in today’s society has rich meaning when we consider the role dignity plays in a person’s experience in society, especially for those of a visible minority such as the disabled*community. Many committed to ‘build back better’ as a reaction to the pandemic and what better way to do that than by the introduction of an accessible soccer program.
Let’s build on this need for respect for each individual in a way that supports their dignity. For a start, your club, association or organization needs to offer a program. Simple! Doing that makes a statement to the community you serve, it shows you recognise, respect and value the diverse nature of your community in just the same way that participants in your other programs may reflect the rich ethnic diversity and non-discriminatory nature of community sport in Canada. We start by accepting all.
Soccability Canada recently had the privilege to present at the 2022 Urban Soccer Symposium. In their 15th year this was the second year in which the event was offered as a hybrid model with online delivery and an in-person conference in Washington DC. For a number of years we have planned to make the trip to DC for this event but the timing has never quite worked out. With the pandemic still of concern it was safer to opt for online delivery this year but we are very excited to return in 2023 in person. The fact that US Soccer have led on this initiative for 15 years now highlights the great awareness they have for the value of soccer as a tool for wider social development.
The Urban Soccer Symposium has a rich history of workshop delivery, collaboration and networking with wider social inclusion as the key focus. Hearing from community organizations that are making great strides in the areas of female involvement in sport, and opening up wider social inclusion discussions, especially in the area of ethnicity are powerful messages for our sport. Innovative program delivery including partnerships with MLS clubs and other professional organizations has been a staple of the symposium and continues to underscore the strong responsibility that all levels of soccer feel south of the border.
This year saw two webinars addressing accessibility with a disability lens. One from an educational team in Florida with a workshop described as; ‘Meeting the needs of the disability community through programming initiatives can be a daunting task, yet out-of-school time programs are in a unique position to assist with promoting life skill development, inclusion, and accessibility. The UF/IFAS 4-H Youth Development programming has been expanding its initiatives to address the needs of the disability community’.
The second webinar was presented by Soccability Canada and focused on the development of disability soccer programs in grassroots soccer clubs and the role that regional and state leaders can play in fostering that development. Attendees left with a clearer understanding of the disability soccer pathways, recognize the importance that we as soccer leaders have in providing these opportunities, and introduce the ways that we can start a simple disability program within three months.
Both sessions will be uploaded soon to the US Soccer Foundation website and available for one year to download. As part of the conference commitment to accessibility all sessions were accompanied by an American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreter as well as a wide range of viewing options.
*Disabled could be restricted by both the medical or social model of disability and include non-visible disability.
Soccability Canada will continue to seek out opportunities to share our knowledge with the wider soccer community at events such as this. If you would like to have us make a presentation at your club or association please reach out. Let’s get this started.
In addition to this event which is akin to a national awareness campaign, we are excited to see the strides being made elsewhere in US Soccer. This includes the creation of a Disability Soccer Committee comprised of a Chair and thirteen committee members. The federation has also recognised five disability service groups as a full member as well as hosting an Athletes Council that includes parasoccer player representation. In our next blog we will take a closer look at the terms of reference for this important group and their plans for the future game in the United States.