The pursuit of sports and recreation has been described as a basic human right. Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay,” while Article 27(1) says “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community.”
Few things define and bond communities and breed pride like the shared love of sports. One only needs to look back as far as this year’s World Cup to see the sway athletic endeavor can hold.
The above statement is all fine and dandy but in reality sport today is draconic. Not only because of the endless practise schedules, hours in the car, games, and tournaments abroad – but also because sport is expensive – REALLY EXPENSIVE.
According to a new study, one in three Canadian children are not participating in organized sports because it’s too expensive to take part. The study, commissioned by CIBC, identified that two major barriers stopping children from participating in organized sports are enrolment fees and equipment costs. Parents, on average, spend $953 per year for a child to participate in a sport, according to the study, and 82 per cent of those surveyed said they know a child who cannot enrol in a sport due to the cost.
There are thousands of children in our communities that cannot afford to play soccer and if I was a betting man some of the most creative and talented individuals would be found in these lower income environments.
One reason attributed to this inkling is because children in lower income brackets spend more time playing unstructured soccer or ‘free play’ because they cannot afford to play organized soccer. Free play is something that is terribly lacking in our currently sporting culture, which really is a shame. Free play provides the opportunity for more touches on the ball – 10,000 touches a day is the magic number – unfortunately in many organized sporting environment young player actually get very few touches on the ball. Organized games, at the youth level, don’t allow for many touches on the ball because the field is simply too big. It wouldn’t be uncommon for a child to only see the ball a few times in a game. If you want to read a great article on this subject then see @Russcher writings on free play here.
There are countless examples of professional soccer players sourcing their developmental qualities to free play. One example can be found in book The Nowhere Men by Michael Calvin, which details the magnitude pickup games had on Raheem Sterling’s development prior to and during his time with Queens Park Rangers’ Centre of Excellence.
Nevertheless, as it stands organized sport seems to have taken a strangle hold on sport in general these days. If the kids aren’t playing organized sport then they are most likely watching YouTube or playing video games, which have associated health and developmental risks.
As a result, from a lack of free play, children are losing their creativity on the ball, becoming fearful of making mistakes, and in the long run become manufactured into a classic Canadian soccer player – aka an athlete. See @WillCromack article, Time to Wake up, as Canadian soccers fans we need to take ownership.
But it get worse, even if kids want to simply go out, have a laugh, learn some tricks, and kick the ball around, many times at the park there will be a sign posted saying ‘keep off’ to protect the fields for the winter season. Not like every grass field in the city isn’t in shambles come November anyways.
So here is an idea worth pondering. What if a soccer club could raise money towards building fields, supply equipment, educate coaches, and provide children in their catchment who cannot afford to play, with the opportunity to play soccer?
What if a soccer club allocated a percentage of the money raised ‘Playing Better’ back into their own programs?
What if a club and all the parents and players recognized this very real possibility?
There is the very real possibility that a portion of the funds raised by a club could go towards equipment, fields, or lowering the fees for those families that are less fortunate. This could solve many topical issues within our current soccer landscape. Remember here in British Columbia we have the highest poverty rate in all of Canada and currently 1/3 of children cannot afford to play organized sport! Through a PR lens this would look fantastic for a club. This would also raise the grassroots talent pool and grow a club from an untapped demographic.
These are all things to think about as we move forward in the future, so if your Interested in becoming a part of the Play Better movement? Register your team today.
I mean seriously, we’re ranked 122 in the world so what do you have to lose?
Go. Play Better.