BASED on the success of a pilot program run this fall, the North Shore Girls Soccer Club has added a new, inclusive program to its expansive offerings just in time for the New Year.
Calling the program Street Soccer for Everyone, the program is designed for girls and boys ages six-17 who don't feel comfortable or able to play on existing local soccer teams. In addition, participation is open to children with developmental or physical disabilities.
"We're really excited to be able to offer it," says Shauna Tucker, president, North Shore Girls Soccer Club.
The program increases the scope of the large club, serving approximately 3,500 players from under-six to adult women.
"The loveliest thing about the soccer club, despite its size, is that it is a grassroots organization," says Tucker. "We've become really aware in the last few years of how integrated in the community that we are. There are almost no families on the North Shore who have girls or young women in them who have not either played or coached or refereed or been touched by soccer in some way . . . . And despite all those truly wonderful things, there is a portion of our community we haven't been serving to date and that just sat wrong. There are some people for whom the style of soccer and soccer development and play that we offer through the club, it hasn't worked for them and we wanted to make sure there was a place for every girl who wanted to play soccer."
A six-week pilot version of the Street Soccer for Everyone program got underway in November 2012, held weekly at The Bubble at Windsor secondary. Between 12 and 16 youths ranging in age from six to 13 participated at each session. Numbers were restricted so that club members could assess the street soccer skill development model being offered, says Tucker.
"The nicest thing about it is it's a really good reminder for everybody involved about why sport is important or should be important," she says. "People are moving and having fun and succeeding. It is a very happy place in The Bubble."
"I don't think we've ever had more positive parent feedback about any program in the club. The response has been quite overwhelming," she adds.
Tucker is pleased to be unveiling the program as part of the club's regular programming this month, the first session getting underway Thursday, Jan. 10.
"It's about athletic skills generally and then soccer skills specifically and then we move into a game situation," she says.
The program title's "street soccer" reference refers to the style of development where a group of people get together and start with a practice, usually conducted in small groups. Those same small groups form or reform to play games at the end of the day, says Tucker.
"It's meant to evoke the equivalent of street hockey," she says. "It's where neighbours get together and kick a ball around and play a game if they want to, usually in a more pick-up style. . . . The name is meant to be evocative first of all of neighbourhood but also of the fact that this is less formal than the team soccer that we play within leagues."
The Street Soccer pilot program was run by professional coaches Alistair Browne, head coach of the NSGSC, Lee-Ann Denham and Paul Myers with the participation of volunteer coaches Lynn Bernard, Tim Godin and Liana Glass. The January program will see players coached primarily by volunteer coaches who Tucker says will be guided and deliver curriculum developed by Browne, Denham and Myers.
Players in need of additional support are welcome to bring what Tucker refers to as a "buddy" - a parent, friend, older sibling, etc. - to participate with them. The NSGSC will provide a support person if none are available or if the player prefers to work with a "buddy" from the club.
Tucker hopes the program continues to grow.
"Anybody who's interested in participating in the program in any way, as a coach, as a buddy or as a player should just be in touch," she says.
Street Soccer Session No. 1 will start on Thursday, Jan. 10 and go for five weeks, from 5: 30 to 6: 30 p.m. at The Bubble. The second session, also five weeks in duration and held Thursday evenings, will get underway Feb. 14. Registration is open to youths ages six-17. Cost per session is $60 and funds are available for families in need. To register, visit nsgsc.ca.
For more information, contact Margo Smith-Kavanagh at email@example.com.