On realizing that less than 3% of school-age kids were playing organized soccer – widely recognized as the most affordable sport option – compared to over 20% on the city’s more affluent west side, local community centre leader Carole Brown set out to determine the cause. It came down to barriers well beyond the cash for fees — language and cultural barriers, single-income homes, dearth of volunteer coaches & organizers and transportation all limited the options presented to inner city kids. In many cases, these kids are relegated to remaining inside their homes, inactive and socially disconnected from even their nearest surroundings.
MoreSports pioneered a model which includes community centres, neighbourhood houses, local schools, recreation organizations, social service agencies, school districts, and parks to create open access programs where fun, interaction and skills are the primary focus. Programs are typically delivered right at school sites, providing after-school care and alleviating the need for transportation. All are on a pay-what-you-can basis. The offerings have grown from soccer and basketball to include swimming, gymnastics as well as dance and now cooking.
The program proved so popular that within several years they faced a two-fold dilemma — massive participation outpaced the volunteer recruitment and kids wanted to continue beyond their elementary school years. The YELL program (Youth Engage Learn Lead) was created to address both. YELL trains teens in leadership skills, coaching (over a dozen sports) and provides a four-stage program from assistant leader to program manager. The YELL program has become an integral part of 10 area high schools’ curricula and has generated over 20,000 hours of service since its founding in 2007.
The beauty of these programs is the ‘hub’ model which draws all community partners together to pool resources, coordinate their outreach to kids.
The legacy of these programs is also elegantly simple: build a community’s capacity to provide a strong social net from within — regardless of means. From that first touch of the ball after school through to the blow of a young referee’s whistle, MoreSports and YELL are engaged in quite a beautiful game.
We salute MoreSports this month as they host their 5th annual Soccer Jam, on Saturday June 19, 2010 from 9:30 am – 4 pm at Killarney Park. Soccer Jam brings together over 4000 parents & kids from throughout Vancouver’s east side neighbourhoods in a single day celebration of The Beautiful Game’s ability to bring communities together.
For more information:
Dick.Woldring@moresports.org or 604.803.8815