Using Sport to Fit in and Flourish

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Sport is known to develop healthier bodies, but what about the notion of sport as a building block for stronger communities? BC Soccer Association has developed a three-day school program, using funding from 2010 Legacies Now, which is proving to be an equalizer for children trying to fit in.

"For kids, it can be hard to make friends when you don't speak English. We have 47 languages spoken at our school. Soccer is something that all kids can be good at; they can soar and show off their skills and talents physically," said Susan Montabello, principal at Burnaby's Maywood Community School. "This boosts their self-esteem and their 'cool' capital with their peers. It helps them get accepted more easily in school."

Kickin' - Soccer in Schools is one of more than two dozen programs funded by the BC Sport Participation Program through a three-year grant that supports B.C. organizations in developing programs to attract new participants to sport.

Many children have limited access to sport due to geography or lack of family resources, and programs such as Kickin' allow them to experience all the benefits that sport can bring. In a recent survey of Canadians, 85 percent of people said sports contributed to their quality of life by providing a place for people to meet and encouraging people from different backgrounds to work and play together.

BC Soccer rolled out Kickin' in 2007 to reach inner-city youth in grades K-7 in Burnaby, Victoria and Prince George. It has since expanded to the Sunshine Coast, with 6,000 youth participating in the first year.

Bjorn Osieck, executive director of BC Soccer, uses the program to build a connection between schools, local soccer clubs and competitive leagues that children can become involved in, with ongoing support by one of the 11 regional centres for soccer development around the province.

The BC Sport Participation Program aims to increase sport participation in community and school-based sports, while also increasing participation by seniors and people with disabilities. The program helps provincial and multi-sport organizations extend their community reach and improve the quality of sport delivery. The program is funded by the Province of British Columbia and Sport Canada.