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09 Feb, Thursday
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Montreal Families

Adaptive soccer makes sport inclusive

Being active is good for all children, but for kids with physical or cognitive differences playing sports with their peers can have a life-changing effect on their overall well-being.

If you’re looking for a team sport for your child, there are Montreal soccer organizations that offer adapted classes where kids and youth of all abilities can enjoy the great benefits of the sport. Played by more than 240 million people around the world — including 750,000 kids in Canada — soccer is immensely popular, partly due to its universally positive experience, low cost, and simplicity.

Exercise for mind and body

ParticipACTION’s 2018 report The Brain + Body Equation: Canadian Kids Need Active Bodies to Build their Best Brains tells us that all children—regardless of their disability type—need to move. In adapted soccer everyone is included regardless of ability or circumstance, however, sometimes modifications may be required to make it as accessible as possible.

Adapted soccer is specifically designed to accommodate individuals who may have limitations or different needs, and aims to teach perseverance, build social connections, and boost self-confidence — all while learning the basics of the game. Physically, adapted soccer can help strengthen the body as well as improve endurance, flexibility, coordination, range of motion, and increase bone density. And best of all, it’s tons of fun!

A typical session can include practice and mini-games, which are adapted to encourage maximum participation and progress for each child. For someone with a visual impairment, an audible ball can be used. For individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing, visual cues such as lights or coloured flags can replace whistles. Breaking the game down into smaller skills and adjusting the rules and length of the games can make it a positive experience for those with learning or cognitive disabilities, and kids with mobility limitations may benefit from a bigger and lighter ball and an adjusted playing area. Mostly, it’s about athletes having fun while developing in a positive and supportive environment.

Local programs

Dollard Soccer Club offers their Adapted Soccer Team for individuals with disabilities between the ages of 4 to 18. The team operates on the philosophy that “there are no limits to what a child can achieve when they are provided with the proper tools and adequate opportunities to realize their full potentials.”

Program Director Amanda Fiore explains that a typical session might begin with stretching and a warm-up circle, obstacle courses adapted to capabilities, one to two drills working on soccer skills such as dribbling, passing, and shooting, and then they’ll try to play a small game to end the session. “It is more of a practice team, which means that we play games between ourselves,”  Fiore says.

Megan Kirby’s 9-year-old son Liam just started with the club and calls the Adapted Soccer Team fantastic. “The club welcomes children of all ages and abilities and we are really impressed with the ratio of coaches to participants,” says Kirby. “The coaches make it fun and inclusive and make it feel like a competitive situation without the competition.”

The adapted team ends its winter session on April 3, and registration for the summer session is targeted for the first week of March with practices starting in June and running through Labour Day weekend. Fees, location, and more details on the program can be found at dollardsoccer.ca

Lakeshore Soccer Club also offers an adapted soccer program during the summer. The Super Sonics is open to all children between the ages of 4 and 20 who have intellectual, social, or physical challenges. During practices, players strengthen their cognitive and gross motor skills through mini skill challenges and games, all while having fun.

The Super Sonics summer season takes place on Saturday mornings from the third week of May through August. While registration began on February 19, there is no deadline to join. For more details, registration info, and fees, visit lakeshoresoccer.ca.

At Soccer Pointe-Claire, children and young adults with special needs can take part in the Special Project adapted soccer program. The 12-week program starts on June 6, 2022 at David Beck Park. Registration is ongoing but families can sign up even after the season has started. Players will practice a combination of drills to learn skills and play games between themselves. Occasionally they will also play teams from other associations. For more information visit soccerpointeclaire.com/special-project.

Saint-Lazare Hudson Soccer Club‘s Mighty Hawks team is aimed at athletes with special needs and was created was to give a chance for children with special needs to participate in soccer. After seeing the lack of services of this type in the area, the club’s Board of Directors decided to launch the development of the program in 2017 through consultation with Special Olympics Quebec.

Athletes are divided into groups according to their abilities, and practice drills that work primarily on motor skills, teamwork and self-esteem. The club aims to have one coach for every two players (depending on the availability of coaches and level of players), and parents are welcome to help out. Sessions last 90 minutes and include a small game. For more information visit slhsoccer.com/fr/page/inscriptions/mighty_hawks

Other associations that offer adapted soccer programs include:

NDG Soccer Association: dgsa.ca/en/lions
Association de Soccer Rosemont La Petite Patrie: soccer-rosemont.org/nos-programmes/soccer-adapte-u9-u12
Association de soccer Anjou: fcsocceranjou.com/fr/page/programmes/soccer_adapte
Association de soccer de Saint-Lambert: assl.ca/fr/page/nos_programmes/soccer_adapte
St-Lazare Hudson Soccer Club: slhsoccer.com/fr/page/inscriptions/mighty_hawks

Related reading:
Program aims to help kids with special needs
Mentoring program for kids with special needs
15 great parks for kids of all abilities

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