Building Diversity and Inclusion Through Soccer
The Spartans Soccer Club & Academy is a non-profit youth soccer club servicing NE Calgary. The majority of the kids in our program come from low-income families and are underrepresented minorities. Many of them are latchkey kids whose parents work more than one job just to feed their families. Our mission statement is to “never say no to a child who wants to play soccer”. We have done whatever we can to get our kids playing soccer whether their families can afford to or not. This often leaves us struggling to pay all of the fees necessary to enter our teams into the Calgary Minor Soccer league and struggling to pay for our facility bookings, uniforms, soccer balls, equipment bags, etc.
Covid 19 has further complicated our goal. Those parents who are still working their two or three jobs are absent from home while their kids, unable to attend school due to restrictions, were left at home to educate themselves online and had too much spare time alone. Many parents lost their jobs due to the pandemic and do not have enough money to pay for such luxuries as organized sports. Money has been extremely tight for families in our community and we have taken in players whether they can afford the registration fees or not. This has led to even more financial struggles for our club.
In a 2018 report, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced that 'sports can contribute immensely to improving people's physical and psychological health. They also present the world with a universal language and a sense of belonging and support. In promoting mutual respect and tolerance, sport teaches important social and interpersonal skills. Using sports to help people, especially youth, has proven to be an effective tool in keeping them from falling into a cycle of anti-social behavior, violence, crime and drug use'
We want to be able to subsidize the sport of soccer for impoverished children in our communities and take as many as we can to play soccer at a cost that they can afford. Some will not be able to pay anything and others will require reduced registration fees. The main goal is to keep them away from criminal activities, empower their sense of belonging and contribute to their academic performance.
Who Will it Benefit?
Unfortunately, the children in our community are high risk youth. They spend a lot of time without parental supervision or adult mentorship. We believe with all our hearts that these youth need, and deserve, a chance to participate in sport and be a part of the community that team sports provides. We want to be able to provide stability and camaraderie to these children and give them a sense of belonging.
Sports teaches young people effective communication skills, deeper self-awareness and increased empathy, and, just as importantly, helps them to improve their academic performance and reject substance use or to criminal activities.